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Duterte Meets Leaders on 103rd Year of Philippine Co-ops

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte met with 250 co-op leaders on October 17 in the Malacanang Palace, to hear co-op issues and concerns, and hear proposals on how co-ops and Government can work together to accelerate nation-building.
This is a milestone in Philippine cooperative history, as for the first time, the President personally met with co-op leaders.
Onstage at the meeting were AGAP Partylist Representative and House Committee on Cooperatives Chairperson, Rico Geron; COOP-NATCCO Rep. Sabiniano Canama;  Agrarian Reform Secretary Atty. John R. Castriciones, and Cooperative Development Authority Chairperson Orlando Ravanera.
Rep. Geron thanked all those present for the opportunity to meet the President, and declared: “Cooperatives have been with us for 103 years, and they have become a way of life.  They are the unseen hand assisting the Government.”
He then gave the purpose for the meeting: “We, in the cooperative sector do not only ask what the government can do for us, but rather we ask what we can do with the government!”
Next to speak was Philippine Cooperative Center Chairperson, Dr. Garibaldi Leonardo, who briefed the President on the nature and purpose of cooperatives.  In his speech, he emphasized that the 250 present were just representing 14 million co-operators from 27,000 registered cooperatives registered with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).
He also said there are 20 types of co-ops with “diverse services in the areas of financial services, retailing, agriculture, production and marketing, service, advocacy and education, electricity distribution, health service, banking, insurance, transport, water service, and more.”
Leonardo assured that co-ops could contribute to his Administration’s aspirations, particularly in the “Build-Build-Build Program”, education of youth, ending of labor contractualization, curb hoarding of farm products and price manipulation, and boost financial inclusion to ‘unbanked’ Filipinos.
In concluding, he urged strong partnership between government agencies and co-ops.
Next to speak was NATCCO Chief Executive Officer Sylvia O. Paraguya.  She emphasized that co-ops accompany their members, in many instances, “from womb to tomb”, and that it is thru co-ops that the“ordinary market vendor, farmer, teacher, indigenous people becomes an owner of a billion-peso enterprise.”  
Lastly, she stressed that co-ops are “the financial institution of the ordinary Filipino financing the countryside.”
Cebu Peoples Multi-Purpose Cooperative Chief Executive Officer, Macario “Yoyong” Quevedo, gave a proposed agenda for the Duterte Administration in partnering with co-ops in ten areas: Financial Services, Agriculture, Transportation, Health Care, Housing, Education, Environmental Protection, Livelihood generation, participation in Conditional Cash Transfer, and Electric Power Distribution. (See related article to be posted)
The ten areas involve government agencies such as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Agriculture, Land Transportation Franchising & Regulatory Board, Office of Transport Cooperatives, Department of Agrarian Reform, Dept. of Health, Housing & Land Use Regulatory Board, Pagibig Fund, Dept. of Education, TESDA, Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources, Dept. of Trade & Industry, Dept. of Social Welfare & Development, and National Electrification Administration.
Quevedo assured: “Mr. President, cooperatives are well-equipped and very capable to undertake these initiatives and programs.”
He added: “To facilitate the implementation of these requests, we have drafted an Executive Order for you to direct the government agencies concerned.”
President Duterte gave an hour-long speech on his administration’s war against drugs, human rights issues, and the reason for the high prices and the slump in the economy.  
On drugs, he told the leaders: “What do I get out of killing the drug lords?  It is not easy to kill!  I get death threats.  Litigation threats.  Jail threats.  That is all I get.  So why do I do it?  It is for you and your children.”  The statement got applause.
On why the economy is not doing well: “The price of oil is up.  Indonesia and Malaysia have oil so they have buffer.  The Philippines has no oil.  And it is beyond the power of the President to control (world) oil prices.”
He concluded by recognizing that co-ops are engines of social change, and reiterated his Administration’s partnership with co-ops.
The draft executive order was not signed.

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