Kim’s Dream Orlan Ravanera
People Disempowerment: Root Cause of Poverty
SOCIAL scientists are one in concluding in their Studies that the root cause of poverty in the Philippines especially in resource-rich Mindanao is not the lack of resources but in the powerlessness of the people to have access and control over their resources and utilities which are fast slipping through their fingers.
That Mindanao is oozing with ecological resources is of no question. Based on the Study of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (UN- FAO), per unit area, Mindanao is the richest on earth in terms of biodiversity. The 5000-hectare Mt. Kintanglad in Bukidnon is the home of flora and fauna whose number of biodiversity is far greater in number compared to those found in the one billion-hectare continent of North America. The richness is not just found above the ground. Beneath are some 72 kinds of minerals.
Amidst the abundance loomed so much poverty. Based on the Study of the United Nations’ Development Program, the poor in Mindanao are the poorest through-out the nation. Of the 25 poorest provinces, 14 are in the Mindanao and are suffering from high poverty gap ratios.
It is in Mindanao that you see thousands of hectares of pine-apple, banana, palm-oil and what have you that are feeding the consumerist lifestyle of the people in the North while hunger is evident in the South. Hunger is glaring in Mindanao, an island that has been called as the “food basket” of the country. What a paradox?! In fact, according to the Food and Nutrition Institute, some 28% of the Filipino children are malnourished, 27% are stunted and 30% underweight.
Where are all our forest gone? Gone to loggers everyone as the 17 million of hectares of dipterocarp forest with all the biodiversity are now erased from the face of the earth. Where are all our minerals gone? Gone to miners everyone.
Who are in control of our resources and utilities? Only a few oligarchs. Please examine the issue on Electric Cooperatives. It was no less than former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez from Cagayan de Oro who advocated for rural electrification in late ‘60s as electricity then was just confined in the urban centers. After passing the rural electrification law, nationalist senators, i.e., Senators Tanada and Sen. Jose Diokno and some congressmen went to the United States and observed the operations of Electric Cooperatives in the United States. They were astonished how these Electric Cooperatives operate, being members-owned. Yes, electricity is a means to life, just like water and air and must be owned and managed by the member-consumers themselves. As a means to life, it must be beyond the commerce of men.
Thus, the Philippines in 1969 began rural electrification and it must be done the cooperative way with an aid from the USAID at the tune of 800 million dollars. However, it came to pass that so-called Electric Cooperatives were not members- owned despite the fact that the member-consumer-owners were the ones paying for the amortization of loans and reinvestment. All these years, their capital contributions that when consolidated today will reach One Trillion pesos are not recorded or recognized.
In 1972, when the World Bank had known that these so called Electric Cooperatives were just cooperatives in name, it provided another set of loans in the billions of dollars so as to educate the millions of members. But the funds were used against insurgency and it was then the period of Martial Law and the Generals were on top of the Department of Energy. Indeed, record would show. It was then Generals who were running the National Electrification Administration and the Department of Energy. In fact, a Presidential Decree had been issued which was PD-1645 named after M-16 and 45 Caliber and the power given to NEA were under Sec. 357, named after Magnum 357.
After the Edsa Revolution, the framers of the 1987 Constitution wanted to rectify such social wrong and created the Cooperative Development Authority as the sole registering agency of all types of cooperatives including so called Electric Cooperatives to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instrument of social justice, equity and economic development.
A Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the first Chairperson of CDA, Chair Edna Aberilla and the DOE Secretary, Emmanuel Pelaez that these so called ECs must register with CDA within three (3) years. An Omnibus Rules and Regulations were drafted to put the Agreement into reality.
But these so-called Electric Cooperatives have all these years created a strong cabal of vested interest. Of the 119 so-called ECs, only 13 were registered with CDA that have recognized the capital contributions of their respective member- consumer-owners. Those recently registered with the CDA are now being questioned. Why are some oligarchs who are in energy do not want these ECs to become genuine cooperatives?
When will this social injustice committed against the 13 million members be rectified? The time has come to put power where it rightfully belongs, that is, with the people. Yes, these so-called ECs are providing light to their members, yet, they put them in the dark regarding the genuine ownership of the ECs and as member- consumer-owners, they are vested with rights that must be recognized.
Cooperativizing the electric cooperatives is an empowering tool to liberate our people from the quagmire of poverty, to be drawn into the mainstream of development processes. It must first recognize the members as member-consumer- owners.
Yes, the root cause of poverty is the people’s powerlessness to have access and control over their utilities that they rightfully owned. But there are some oligarchs who cannot moderate their greed. Gumising na po tayo!