IT IS an established truism that our country is oozing with ecological wealth especially in resource-rich Mindanao based on the study of Dr. Kent Carpenter of the United Nations’ Food & Agricultural Organization (UN-FAO). In that study, the Philippines is the richest with regards to biodiversity.
Don’t you know that in the 5,000-hectare forest ecosystem of Mt. Kitanglad, the number of flora and fauna is far greater compared to those found in the one billion-hectare continent of North America? Mr. Larry Heaney, an environmentalist from California, USA, did conduct a study there sometime in the 80s and was so amazed to observe monkey-eating eagles flying above while the smallest monkeys in the world called Tarsiers are jumping from one branch to another.
There could be no wonderful sites on earth than the blooming of nature, manifesting the magnificence of the invisible and formless Supreme Force Being called God! The urban centers are the opposites as such are the manifestation of egoic and diabolic mind.
But the wealth of the country is not just confined above the ground; beneath are some 72 kinds of minerals, i.e., gold, silver, bronze, copper, iron, silicon and so on including black sands. No doubt, that “paradise” on earth doesn’t stop at the shorelines. The Philippine Archipelago is even more amazing as it has been described by the UN-FAO as “the center of the center of marine life on earth.”
Amidst plenty lies so much poverty – a glaring paradox especially in the “land of the brave and the free” – Mindanao. Based on the Study of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), of the 25 poorest provinces in the country, 14 are in Mindanao as the poor in Mindanao are the poorest. While it is called the “food basket” of the country, yet according to Food and Nutrition Institute, it is where you find the high degree of malnutrition among the children (28% malnourished, 27% underweight, and 30% stunted).
What a glaring paradox in a land showcasing some 200,000 hectares of plantations with high value crops that are supplying the consumerist lifestyle of the people in the North while we cannot even supply the country’s basic staples such as rice and milk.
Development experts and social scientists are puzzled no end. It is their conclusion that the root cause of poverty is not the lack of resources but the POWERLESSNESS of the people to have access and control over these resources which as fast slipping through their fingers.
We must now reflect on these painful realities by asking three basic questions: OF THE COUNTRIES WEALTH, WHO CONTROLS? WHO DECIDES? WHO BENEFITS?
Social transformation is now the call of the times. Indeed, for those who have dreamt, struggled, sacrificed and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of martial law and two-people powered revolutions.
The structures and systems that perpetuate social injustice and poverty are still as formidable as ever. However, under the present dispensation, change is now in the offing as it’s the mindset of the present leadership to empower the poor and the vulnerable to rectify the dysfunctions of the present economic paradigm.
Poverty is indeed rooted in the powerlessness of the people and as our counter measure, they must be empowered to the drawn into the mainstream of development processes. Empowering the poor and the vulnerable makes it imperative to harness their collective power through cooperativism! This is true in the life of the peasantry who has been producing food but their dining tables fall short of it as they are tilling the land not their own, or if they own the land, they do not control the mode of production and marketing. The more than 2,000 cooperatives of the agrarian reform beneficiaries do own the land now as agrarian reform and cooperativism are two sides of the same coin – both are social justice measures. Through their respective cooperatives, the poor farmers have shifted from conventional to sustainable agriculture and are now into value-change operations, aptly claiming control over the mode of production and marketing, unfettered from usurers and compradors.
To rectify the greatest social injustice committed against the eleven (11) million member-consumer-owners of so-called Electric Cooperatives, this critical mass of some 55 million Filipinos are now being conscienticized as no less than the Supreme Court had ruled in the 2003 that the ECs are not cooperatives even if they used “cooperative” as a nomenclature, a criminal offense then as provided for in RA 6938 (Cooperative Code of the Philippines). But such was deleted in RA 9520.
Even that provision that says that the CDA is the sole registering agency of all types of cooperatives is now nowhere to be found in the law that is geared towards strengthening CDA. Is the unseen hand of the Cartel at play? Are you an EC and you want to cooperativize? Beware, the case of DANECO speaks well for itself as nine advocates had already been murdered as additional two have just been killed recently.
No problem as time heals all wounds which will be rectified by Cooperativism! This is a truism that is now reverberating not only in the Philippines but through-out the world. No less than the United Nations has seen the imperative of debunking the present economic paradigm that is only successful in benefitting only one percent of the world’s population. In fact, the combined wealth of eight richest families in the United States totals the combined assets of 3.6 billion people on earth. While 821 million people are hungry, the United States has produced a kind of cake that is worth $72,000.
Amidst these paradoxical realities looms the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals – i.e., stop hunger, stop poverty, stop gross inequities, stop social injustices, protect the eco-systems, promote peace, etc. We are happy to note that all of these SDGs are lumped into one theme which is “Transformative Cooperatives for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace!” (to be continued)