IN HIS book, "An Urgent Call for a Cooperative Revolution," then chairman of the Cooperative Development Authority, 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 terrorists. Thus, by all means, poverty must be met head-on with all determination if the country has to survive. This is true in a nation that has been described in the 80s in a Study by the World Bank as "seems to be in the brink of economic disaster" but not anymore under the present dispensation as those in the margins are now being empowered through cooperativism.
Like a sinking ship, people are jumping on board 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 thirty billion dollars or so remittances every year.
While we have no qualms in that, we have to understand that in the long term, the destiny of this country should not depend on these 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, finding jobs for those who have none; this means having food security and ecological integrity, this means, uprooting the root causes of why we are poor. This is the essence of cooperativism whose DNA is one of members-owned, value-based, philosophy driven and advancing sustainability and inclusive growth to erase social injustice and inequality.
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? Why all the regions in Mindanao are 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 exports are coming from? How can we mobilize whatever we have to 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 country talking to farmers, fisher folks, women, workers, the youth, the indigenous people and social innovators, these are the 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 areas, the fisher folk are joining hands to protect their delicate fishery resources, their means to life, against all forms of ecological degradations. They are now organized into cooperatives to protect, rehabilitate and conserve ecological wealth through coastal resource management in the uplands, the lumads 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 traders, are standing up to the call of unshackling themselves from the oppressive grip 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.
We can aptly claim that the wind of change now hovers over the land to rectify social flaws of so much inequities and poverty. People are now responding to the call, a clarion sound so loud to establish a society that is based on the time-honored principles 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. Join us!