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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

How to Liberate the Poor from Poverty?

Kim’s Dream  Orlan Ravanera

Launching a Cooperative Revolution

In his book, “An Urgent Call for a Cooperative Revolution,” then Chairman of the Cooperative Development Authority, Hon. Roberto Pagdanganan said that, “If a few elite will continue to have much too much and the many who are poor will continue to have much too little, we will find our country in a condition horrible even to contemplate.”

No doubt poverty breeds conflict; it is the best recruiter for violent extremism. Thus by all means, poverty must be met head-on with all determination if the country has to survive, a nation that has been described in a recent Study as “in the brink of economic disaster,” despite report on rise of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but the contribution of agriculture is only .2% in the last decade, so frustrating in an agricultural country where short or long term development can be won or lost through agriculture.  

Like a sinking ship, people on board are jumping in droves so as to find decent jobs in foreign lands.  While they have abandoned the sinking ship, yet wonder of all wonders, they are the ones keeping the ship afloat by their fifty billion dollars or so of remittances every year. 

While we have no qualms on that, we have to understand that in the long run, the destiny of this country should not depend on those remittances but on the decision of those who remained to reverse the trend of economic difficulties. 

Reversing the poverty trend is easier said than done.  This means making the people  productive; this means having food security and ecological integrity, this means rectifying social wrongs such as social injustice and gross inequities,  this means uprooting the root causes of why we are poor.

However, before we can solve the problem, we must first know why there is such a problem in the first place.  Why is there so much poverty in a country oozing with so much ecological resources? Who controls? Who decides? Who profits from these resources. Why is Mindanao, an island oozing with ecological wealth with some 72 kinds of minerals below the ground, suffering from high poverty gap ratios than the rest of the country, notwithstanding the fact that this second biggest island is the country’s “food basket” and where two-thirds of the country’s esports are coming from? How can we mobilize whatever we have ro stop our accelerating drive toward economic disaster against the backdrop of  rising prices?

Before we know the answers, we must first ask the questions, so to speak. In my sorties around the region talking to farmers, fisherfolk, women’s groups, workers, the youth, the Indigenous Peoples and social innovators, there are so many questions raised.  While we may have so many questions to answer, however, all these have led to only one answer, and that is, COOPERATIVISM. 

This is so because it is the common analysis that the root cause of the problem of poverty is the marginalization of the people to participate in development processes.  Thus being the case, the only remedial measure is to capacitate the people to mobilize their collective energies and potentials so that they can be put in the mainstream of development. 

When people bind themselves together to craft their own destiny, the spirit of cooperativism exists.  Such is now manifested in so many ways.  In the coastal  communities, the fisherfolk are joining hands to protect their delicate fishery resources, their means to life, against all forms of ecological degradations.  They are now organize into cooperatives to protect, rehabilitate and conserve ecological wealth through coastal resource management.  In the uplands, the Indigenous Peoples are now the vanguards of their forest resources ,advancing community based resource management through their cooperatives. 

The farmers who all these years have been abused by the fertilizer dealers, usurers and local trader, are standing up to the call of unshackling themselves from the oppressive grip of conventional agriculture to  make their farming sustainable through their multi-purpose cooperatives, be producer or marketing.  The tenant-tillers are now claiming the dignity of owning the land they till, making their cooperatives the vehicle of agrarian reform.

One very important critical strategy of liberating the Filipino people from poverty and from the control of a few elite  through cooperativism is to rectify a glaring social wrong in the life of the 13 million MCOs (member-consumer-owners) of so called Electric Cooperatives (ECs)  which according to Supreme Court in its 2002 landmark decision penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo are cooperatives in name only as these ECs are not following the time-honored universally-accepted cooperative principles and values. In that landmark decision the Supreme Court has tasked agencies of government such as the CDA  being the regulatory agency to rectify such social wrong. Liberating the MCOs from oligarchical control is not an easy task as experienced by yours truly as then CDA Chairman. So much judicial persecution and threats to life but no problem. Death and imprisonment have no match against my strong determination  to fight for what is just, what is right and in serving the least of our brethren following my mission in government to “let not a single drop of rain go out to the sea without serving the people”.  

The ECs don’t even recognize the membership patronage\contribution of the MCOs which have already reached more than a trillion pesos taken from their monthly billings on two items , i.e., on the amortization of loans and reinvestment. Such was contrary to the original purpose of advancing Rural Electrification in the Sixties when a group of congressmen and senators led by Sen. Diokno and Sen. Tanada, went to the United States and saw that Rural Electrification in the Philippines should be done the cooperative way as just like water, electricity is a means to life and must not be a means for massive money making by the oligarchs., meaning, these ECs should be owned and managed by the consumers themselves, which is true in the United States where the ECs are giving monthly patronage refund to every MCOs including scholarship program for the children and free medication and hospitalization. The USAID was so happy that it granted some 800 million dollars to the Philippine government but to the USAID frustration, such was not followed as the oligarchs are in control.  That social injustice has victimized some 65 million Filipinos as the 13 MCOs in a family of 5 will reach that many.  Still nothing is being done to rectify such social wrong.  When the former CDA Chairman tried to correct that, he was crucified no end with three attempts to his life. .  That’s how powerful the oligarchs are as economic power begets political power. 

The time has come to promote the essence of cooperativism in the life of the 13 million MCOs, unfettered from the control of the oligarchs in cohort with power-that-be.

We can aptly claim that the wind of change is now hovering over the land to rectify social flaws of so much inequities and social injustices.  People are now responding to the call, a clarion call so loud to establish a society that is based on the time-honored and universally accepted principle of social justice, meaningful popular participation and sustainable development. It is a peaceful but active resistance to fight the rule of a few elite thereby democratizing wealth and power – that is what we call, A COOPERATIVE REVOLUTION!


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