Empowering the Poor & Vulnerable : The Oro Integrated Cooperative Shows the Way

OPINION
By ORLAN R. RAVANERA
June 25, 2020

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Harnessing the people’s collective power and potentials is the one to defeat poverty, the country’s number one enemy that deprives the people of welfare and dignity. Studies have shown that poverty looms paradoxically in a country that is oozing with ecological wealth because of the powerlessness of the people to have access and control over their resources.  Who controls? Who decides? Who benefits? Not the people but a few oligarchs. That is a great social injustice. The Studies concluded. 

Democratizing wealth and power to promote social justice is what cooperativism is all about. This is mandated by the highest law of the land in Chapter 15, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution which states,” to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of social justice, equity and economic development. 

For a society to continuously have such a highly stratified economic set-up, rectifying social wrongs has been the battle-cry to advance social justice, equity and a kind of development that puts the people at the center of progress. In a highly skewed societal set-up, there is that imperative need to launch a collectivist counter culture against the lethal combination of powerlessness, apathy and greed. The people’s collective struggle emanating from the strength of the human spirit will bring forth, in the long term, a society that is more humane and just.
In 1966, a few good men and women led by Atty. Mordino Cua trail-blazed a progressive path to serve the people by organizing a cooperative named after its place of birth, the Oro Integrated Cooperative otherwise known as the OIC.  With a measly P88 as its starting capital but firmly relying on the organizers’ strong abiding faith on the time-honored and universally-accepted cooperative principles and values, the OIC, after 54 years, has grown by leaps and bounds.  

Today, OIC serves its members financially with a capital of Five Billion Seven Hundred Million Pesos (P5.7 B), money that they themselves own and manage to liberate them from the clutches of economic difficulties. It is operating with some 18 branches and going 20 branches this year spread throughout Mindanao with one branch operating in the beautiful island of Bohol. 

Today, OIC stands as a formidable ally of the poor – the farmers, the fisherfolk, women, workers, vendors, drivers, lowly government employees – constituting a development force of some 160,000 strong members scattered throughout Mindanao especially in Cagayan de Oro and the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Tagbilaran City who are now engaged in small and micro enterprises.

In its own right, OIC has equalized financial opportunities for the marginalized sectors through its twelve financial windows front-lined by 18  branches that provide regular and privilege loans. While commercial banks have considered the poor non-bankable, here is a cooperative that thinks otherwise.  Indeed, when the poor harness their collective potentials and pool their resources together, it is just magical and wondrous!

OIC has provided the empowering path to the helpless, the downtrodden and the oppressed as it hits the crux of the problem.  Studies have shown that poverty is rooted in the dis-empowerment and the social exclusion of the people.   As such, the only remedial measure is to empower the poor to craft their own destiny.  They must put their future into their own hands – not to the politicians, not through grants, not to development agencies be government or non-government organizations – but through their own efforts. In truth, it is only they who can liberate themselves from the viciousness of poverty because unless they act for their own welfare, all the outpourings of development assistance will be for naught.

Indeed, OIC has exemplified the truism that cooperatives have become the countervailing force against poverty, social injustice, gross inequities, climate change and even against violent extremism that is now trailblazing social transformation for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace. For those who have dreamt, struggled and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of martial law and two people-powered revolutions.  The systems and structures perpetuating poverty are still as formidable as ever. But not anymore under the present dispensation of President Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is now empowering the poor and the vulnerable especially the Indigenous People to fight poverty. 

OIC is indeed the cooperative of those who struggle to make life better for the people through their own empowerment.  While it banks on the grassroots initiatives of mobilizing resources for the poor, yet OIC could not be left behind technologically being the first cooperative to use an Automated Teller Machine dubbed the Pinoy Coop ATM. It has exemplified concern for the communities and the environment in so many ways as it is the beacon of light amidst the darkness of poverty.

When a cooperative bank was in distress as in the case of the Cooperative Bank of Misamis Occidental which had been put into receivership, OIC readily offered a helping hand in coordination with other cooperatives, as together they worked for its rehabilitation, the first of its kind in the whole country.  Indeed, OIC is a kindred spirit to those in need.

OIC has showcased what cooperativism should be, which is, a vehicle of social transformation.  It has become a feather in the cap of the cooperative movement not only locally but also nationally and even globally.   

To the Board of Directors chaired by an amazing cooperative leader, Madam  Doris Calapiz and to  the  Management and Staff headed by a humble but firm CEO  Mr. Rene Hilot and all the one hundred sixty thousands members of OIC, our firm salute and warm embrace from your partner agency – the Cooperative Development Authority.  MABUHAY ANG OIC!


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