Pilipino co-operatives celebrated the co-operative month by highlighting their sector’s contribution to overcoming poverty. October has been the National Co-op Month since 2004 by a presidential declaration. Philippines’ first co-operative law was passed in February 1915. Since then, co-ops have continued to grow, from small enterprises to large co-operative banks.
This year’s theme for the Co-op Month was Co-operatives: the catalyst of change through poverty eradication and social transformation. The aim of the month is to raise awareness of the model and the role played by its 13 million members in the country’s social and economic development.
Marking the month, deputy minority leader and Coop-Natcco Partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo delivered a speech on 11 October, in which he called on the government to “implement a comprehensive policy on ensuring the sound development of co-operatives”. He highlighted that co-operatives had been “a partner of the government in fighting poverty and inequality”. The Congressman talked about the important role played by co-ops in different sectors, such as agriculture, utilities, transport, health, housing and banking.
The Philippines is home to 26,243 cooperatives registered with the Cooperative Development Authority, with combined membership of 13.7 million.
The representative said that co-ops continued to faced barriers due to the lack of a “supportive legal framework for co-operative growth”. He explained that 91% of co-ops were small and micro enterprises that accounted for only 9% of the total assets of co-ops. Medium and large co-ops account for around 87% of these assets.
“The government must promote upscaling of micro and small co-ops,” said Mr Bravo. He also warned against removing tax exemption for co-operatives, which, he said, could threaten the sustainability of some co-ops.
“Tax treatment on co-operatives should not be the same with the usual businesses. Whatever earnings obtained by the co-operative are given back to the member owners in the form of dividends,” said the Congressman, calling on the government to also strengthen the Cooperative Development Authority, a government body designed to foster the development of the sector.
The celebrations culminated with the National Cooperative Summit on 24-26 October, which is expected to bring over 5,000 delegates to Pasay City. The summit focused on sustaining excellence in co-ops.