The Institute of Cooperatives and Bio-Enterprise and Development (ICOPED) opened its Cooperative Month Celebration with the theme, “Rebuilding Coops: Better Together, Stronger Together” on October 19, 2021 via Zoom and Facebook livestream from 9:00 am until 12:00 noon.
The Cooperative Month is a yearly celebration in recognition of the important role of cooperativism in economic and social development. This year, ICOPED’s celebration takes off from the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) call to “rebuild better together” and is one with the Philippine’s Cooperative Month theme, “Kooperatibang Matatag: Tumutugon sa mga Hamon, Daan sa Pagbangon, Nagbibigay Pag-asa sa Makabagong Panahon!”.
The celebration started with “COOPversation: A Roundtable Discussion on the Future of the Cooperative Sector in the New Normal”. The activity takes a look at the current situation of the cooperatives during the pandemic as well as the support available to cooperatives to help them be resilient and contribute to economic recovery from the crisis of this pandemic.
In his inspirational message, Regional Director Pedro T. Defensor, Jr. of the Cooperative Development Authority emphasized the service to people as the main driving force of cooperatives’ existence. This is the same reason why cooperatives continue to rise up even no matter how hard the situation is. This insight resonates with the messages of the Dean of the College of Economics and Management, Dr. Agham C. Cuevas, and UPLB Chancellor, Dr. Jose V. Camacho, Jr on the much-needed collective action and pakikipagkapwa, which, with the latest technology, cutting-edge programs, and education, will further pronounce the cooperative movement in the country.
The roundtable discussion was attended by TESDA Cavite Provincial Director Atty. Imelda T. Ong, Ms. Alaiza Marie D. Loretizo of the DOST CALABARZON, and Ms. Amabel P. Perez of the Landbank Laguna Lending Center as resource speakers who presented various government assistance available to cooperatives. The activity was also attended by Ms. Celia L. Atienza, Head of the Batangas Provincial Cooperative, Livelihood, and Enterprise Development Office (PCLEDO), Mr. Bon Ian D. dela Roca, Asst. Vice President for Returns of the Soro-Soro Ibaba Development Cooperative, and EnP. Paulo G. Velasco, Department Head of the Sta. Rosa City Cooperative Development Office, as reactors.
Among the government assistance that cooperatives can avail are grants for the acquisition of equipment and technologies through the Grants-in-Aid program of the DOST, various loan facilities through the Landbank of the Philippines, and scholarship and training services through TESDA. The three reactors vouched the presence of the three agencies as active partners for cooperative development through their programs. According to them, DOST has made it possible for cooperatives to acquire new equipment and facilities. TESDA, with their trainings especially for livelihood and competencies training as the train-employ program, have also benefited not only the cooperatives but also small enterprises. Meanwhile, Landbank also provides trainings for cooperatives aside from the loan facilities. These programs, according to Mr. dela Roca, were aligned with the market demand-driven needs of the cooperatives.
While these programs provide opportunities to cooperatives, not all cooperatives are aware of these program. EnP. Velasco emphasized the need to have an intensified communication and information dissemination. Linkages among stakeholders is essential in this regard. He also echoed Mr. dela Roca’s suggestion to institutionalize a standard seal of good governance among cooperatives and to utilize this as a pre-screening requirement which would facilitate processing of application for assistance.
Ms. Atienza raised the concern of having a special window for Credit Surety Fund cooperatives, a newly acknowledged specialized type of cooperative, in availing of credit line from Landbank. She also suggested to bring back community-based training by establishing training facilities in the community.
The roundtable discussion also opened the discussion on the upcoming implementation of the Cooperative Development and Management Level 4 Qualification through the partnership of the CDA and TESDA. The Qualification “consists of competencies that a person must achieve to establish cooperative, develop quality products and services, develop human resources, practice good governance, ensure safe and sound operation, and contribute to social, economic, and environmental sustainability”. The Regional Training Center (RTC) CALABARZON in Batangas City is in the process of registering the Qualification. According to TESDA Cavite PD Ong, the course will follow a flexible implementation, citing the possibility of conducting the course through online, face-to-face, or a combination. While intended to cooperative officers and members, cooperative officers and cooperative trainers are encouraged to take the course. Mr. dela Roca suggested to involve cooperative practitioners in the program and have them teach the course due to their vast expertise and experience in the cooperative. Addressing whether the course can be taken in lieu of the mandatory courses for cooperative officers, CDA RD Defensor mentioned that a circular is required.
The roundtable discussion was well-attended both in Zoom and in Facebook livestreaming, with participants coming from cooperatives, cooperative youth development council, and the academe.