When I retired from public services, after nine years as Governor and fourteen years as Congressman, I thought I was also retired from public speaking. As Governor and as Congressman, I felt I had delivered more than enough speeches already. So. I promised to myself: “Enough is enough, no more speeches from here on”. But then, when your President and CEO of CLIMBS Don Fermin Gonzales, invited me to be your Keynote Speaker I could not say No to him. He is such a charming and very persuasive person. Besides, I have a health insurance with CLIMBS and at my age I cannot afford to lose it. In any case, I’d like you to know that I feel honored and privileged to speak before this distinguished gathering of the eagles of the cooperative movement and to share with them a few thoughts on a subject, which I am sure, is also to their hearts, “The Challenge to Cooperatives in this Country.“
We are living in a fast-moving and ever-changing world. Our world today is vastly different from the world we used to know, 30 or 40 years ago. Many things have changed. And the bewildering rapidity and diversity of the changes that have taken place, especially in the fields of science and technology, have altered dramatically the economic landscape in the world and as a consequence, the ways by which people live and work. People and their institutions have to adjust top existing realities and to adopt new strategies in order to respond to the challenges and opportunities brought about by these changes.
For those engaged in business and industry, and this includes cooperatives. they are confronted with two challenges: first, they have to navigate safely in a world of constant change and second, they must struggle and survive in a highly and sometimes fiercely competitive environment.
Why is competition the name of the game in business and industry? This is because in the Philippines and elsewhere they have leveled the playing fields, so to speak, and in this game, any number can play. it is now case of “survival of the fittest” – “Matirang Matibay”. Anybody, as long as he has the necessary financial resources, can engage in any kind of business or industry that he wants, be it banking, manufacturing, mining, merchandising etc. Moreover, one can enter into as many kinds of business and industry, as he can affrd, at the same time. For example: look at San Miguel Corporation, It engaged not only in brewery but also in power generation and distribution, real estate development, and expressway toll operation. or take SM Corporation, which is engaged not only in operating malls here and abroad but also in many other businesses and industrial ventures. The same is true with Ayala land or Robinson Land.
In this crowded jungle of business and industry in the country today, where do our dear cooperatives stand? Will they endure and survive the competitor? Or are they going to fall by the wayside and perish along the boulevard of broken dreams?.
If you want me to answer these questions, I can tell you, without fear of successful contradiction, that in this country and in spite of all competition, the cooperatives will not only endure and survive but, as certain, as the sun rises in the East, will triumph and prevail. These are brave words and maybe you are thinking that mine is just an impossible dream.
But, why or how do I have to say so?
The theme of this General Assembly is: “Empowering Cooperatives and its Members for Financial Freedom.”
Actually, Cooperatives already have the Powers to make that dream of financial freedom come true and more. In fact, I dare say that the Cooperative is the most powerful non-governmental organization in the country today.
And from where does the Cooperative derive such powers? From the Constitution and from the laws of land: (1) Section 15, of Article XII – The National Economy, of the Constitution, provides: “Section 15. The Congress shall create an agency to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments for social justice and economic development.” And pursuant to this mandate, Congress passed R.A. No. 6939, creating the Cooperative Development Authority, but also R.A. 6938 – The Coop Code, which was later amended by R.A. No.9520 and the Local Government Code – R.A. No.7160.
These laws provide for financial and technical assistance to cooperatives from the Government and all its agencies and instrumentalities, such as exemption from income tax and other taxes, exemption from pre-bidding qualification requirements in case of Government projects, and many other privileges. The Local Government Code exempts cooperatives from the payment of Real Property tax and all other taxes, fees and charges imposed by local governments.
The Constitution and the laws of the land are meant to make cooperatives succeed and prosper. But as they say: God helps only those who want to help themselves. So, cooperatives must have to help themselves succeed. It’s just a matter of guts, imagination and “policital will” to speak, on their part.
So, this question may well be asked: Why don’t cooperatives start getting out of their traditional turfs or comfort zones: as consumers, micro-landers, producers, farmers or employee’s organization and dare to dream big and venture into other fields of business and industry, where they can exploit, utilize and maximize their statutory benefits, privileges and comparative advantage, as cooperatives. This questions sums up the challenges confronting our cooperatives today.
This time, I fell that it is for the leaders of the cooperative movement, some of whom are gathered here, to answer this question. But before you answer, let me tell you of the story of a teacher who entered his class one morning raising a clenched fist of his right hand. And he announced: “Class, I have a tiny little bird in my right hand. Tell me: is it alive or is it dead?” The teacher intended that the class would not be able to give a correct answer. If the pupils would answer that the bird was alive, he could just clench his fist tighter and the bird would die in no time. And if the class would answer that the bird was dead, he would just open his hand and the tiny little bird would fly away. The class fell silent for some time suspecting that their teacher wanted to play a trick on them. Then, a small boy at the back, stood up and said: “The answer to your questions sir is in your hands!”
My friends in the cooperative movement, the answer to the question I have asked, is in your hands.
Hon. Pablo P. Garcia
Former Congressman & Governor of the Province of Cebu