opinion

Be It Against Social Injustice or COVID-19 : THE SPIRIT OF COOPERATIVISM ALWAYS PREVAILS

June 18, 2020

Let us recall the popular lines that time and again come to the inner recesses of our mind every time the cooperative movement face challenges as exemplified by the corona virus pandemic. We were saying then as we say now that a strong army can conquer a kingdom but that the strongest army in the world cannot stop an idea whose time has come. Indeed, no way can COVID-19 defeat the firm determination of the cooperatives to be a countervailing force against poverty, inequities, social injustices, climate change, violent extremism and now the pandemic called corona virus. The one billion members of the cooperatives world-wide including some eleven million cooperative members in the Philippines know that indeed cooperativism has come of age and that, no force on earth can stop it now. This truism has been affirmed by the USAID, the United Nations and by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).   Please allow me to put this in its proper historical context. Do you remember that that for the first time in the UN history, it declared 2012 as the International Year of the Cooperatives stating that cooperative enterprises build a better world.  On its part, the ICA has declared 2011 to 2020 as the Cooperative Decade as it describes the cooperatives as the People’s preferred Development Model and the fastest growing enterprise that will replace the present dominant paradigm. What is so amazing was the 3-month Research-Study conducted last year by the International Cooperative Development Council headed by Dr. Judith Hermanson of the United States Agency for International Development or USAID. In summary, the Research Study has concluded that the existence of the cooperatives influences the over-all quality of life of the community and the members enjoy better economic position and that cooperative members have greater resilience as measured by access to resources in times of emergency than non-members. It finally concluded that the Philippines is the Cooperative Leader in Asia and the Pacific.  Wow! So wonderful! The paradigm shift from neo-liberal capitalism to cooperativism is already long overdue.  The unsustainability in ecology must now be rectified because, in the absence of a major change, the unsustainable pattern of resource use will cause the collapse of the world system in less than a hundred years.  The unsustainability in the economy, where individualized aggrandizement and accumulation of wealth is the order of the day, must now be debunked to give way to the collective efforts towards inclusive growth through cooperativism. Albert Einstein once told us that we cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that has given rise to the problem, thus, from a consumerist and materialist thinking, there must be a shift to regenerative mindset, from having more to being more.   The UN has categorically defined the DNA of the cooperatives as members-owned, value-based and sustainable.  Being members-owned, the problem of gross inequities will be solved as the mebers are the main stakeholders as they own and manage their own enterprise.  The members are the ones to control, to decide and to benefit – thus, democratizing wealth in a highly iniquitous society. Being value-based, the cooperatives give high adherence to time-honored and universally-accepted cooperative principles, values and practices of participation, democracy, equality, service, industry, cooperation, honesty, transparency, accountability and most importantly, concern for the environment and for the communities.  In a world so enamored in externalities and trivialities that is giving high veneration to the profit motive and external looks and so much denigration to spiritual values, transformative cooperatives for people, planet, prosperity and peace is the urgent call of the times. In cooperativism, there is no such thing as moderating one’s greed as cooperatives’ raizon d’ etre is for service and not for profit.  Money will be used to enhance life and the well-being of the people and NOT to make more money. The cooperatives are considered as the builders of sustainability and by 2020, they will be the acknowledged leaders in social, economic and ecological sustainability.  This means food security, inclusive growth and ecological integrity will be the priorities rather than business and profit.  The one billion cooperative members worldwide are giving notice to one and all that social change is now in the offing; indeed, social transformation is now sweeping the globe as humanity is now in the threshold of the earth’s tipping point.  If the present dominant paradigm continues, meaning, “business as usual,”  then, we will tip the balance in favor of death.  The paradigm shift towards cooperativism, that advances the blueprint of the cooperative decade, will tip the balance in favor of life as the roadmap makes the cooperatives the countervailing force against resource depletion and economic stagnation.  Yes, the cooperative’s time has come and no force on earth, be Cartels or global  cooporatives can stop them. Not even the much dreaded Corona Virus!

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Green and sustainable developments: is CdO ready?

June 16, 2020

The recent lockdown and Covid-experience made us all more aware about the importance and value of living in a sustainable, green and healthy environment. Having been 'restrained' for a long period of time made us truly appreciate the comfort of open spaces and natural environment. In fact, the spread of viruses and other diseases are drastically reduced where there is natural vegetation, plenty of sunlight, natural ventilation and breathable spaces. Now more than ever Green Building, passive green design and sustainable development concepts are all key factors in planning our future environments. But what is a Green Building? “Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.” says the American Environment Protection Agency's website. The city's development plan (comprehensive land use plan 2019-2027) already envisioned a sustainable way of building new green low density areas, green belts, parks, open spaces, tree parks and tree strips along the main thoroughfares. In Cagayan de Oro there already are some green developments like for example Luxe Hotel in Limketkai that was actually certified as the first LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building in the Philippines in 2013 and 2014. Another LEED certified building is the Pioneer House CdO, the only LEED Platinum Certified Building in the Visayas and Mindanao. Further there is Cepalco's Green Office Building along Mastersons Avenue in Uptown with it's photovoltaic panels and aim to be a 'Net Zero' building. A 'net zero' building is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. And finally, as the only residential green building and EDGE certified development in Cagayan de Oro there is Primavera Residences and Primavera City developed by IDC (Italpinas Development Corporation). Both projects have been awarded by important international recognitions like by the Philippine Green Building Council-Leadership in Green Building Award and the International and South East Asian Property Awards. EDGE is a green building certification system developed by the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank. EDGE stands for Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies, and the certification has the goal of reducing the environmental impact of buildings in three areas: direct energy consumption, water consumption, and the energy footprint of construction materials. For example in IDC's both developments passive green design features are the type of exposure of the building to the sun to minimise its impact evaluated during planning phase through a special software, the natural shading features created by various cantilevers, the natural ventilation created through the internal courtyard of the building (called chimney effect), the solar panels on the rooftop powering the common areas of the development. As the environment and our quality of life gets more and more important the focus of of both developers and home-buyers is set to shift to developments that are green in design and architecture, sustainable, eco-friendly and most of all liveable. With CdO's development plans under way this is a great opportunity to become one of the leading green LGUs in the Philippines that values quality of life and respect for nature. Residents from Primavera Residences are actually some of the best witnesses to the great lifestyle of green condo-living and they are very eager to share their experience on how it really feels like living in a green building.

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To Avoid Covid-19, Pls Read : God’s Book, the Holiest

June 16, 2020

The holiest of books is not one written by evangelists or well-known prophets but one authored by God Himself, evolving through billions of years, shown in the beauty of the universe.  Neither is it written in words nor in any language and is opened 24 hours a day, has no literacy requirement  and can be well understood using not one but five senses. If that “book” has been read, due respect could have been given to the sacredness of life of all species, then, “Paniki”or bats would not be a subject of man’s consumeristic attitude and there could be no corona virus. Such also took place when man began eating chimpanzees that brought forth, as a consequence,  the HIV disease.     That book is said to be a manifestation of the Unseen using the great void as its pages and the four elements of the Universe as its alphabets, namely, Fire, Water, Earth and Wind. It is called the book of nature written through the ages that contains all the mysteries of life and the laws that must be obeyed irrespective of race, color, belief, gender and class.   The 250 million stars in the cosmos can well speak of that element called Fire that touches us through the glorious sun.  Every time the sun proclaims a new day, that bursting of the light in the horizon shows that darkness can only be had in the absence of light and no way can the darkness defeat the light.  In the same breath that truth always prevails over lies, righteousness over diabolic acts, love over hate, the just over the unjust, and life over death. But we also read in that book that even the darkness has some good in it because it shows us the stars. From that element called Water we have learned that flowing is the essence of life as to stagnate means diseases, sorrows and death. For it to flow, it must seek a lowly path as it gains more power by falling down.  In the 70s during the height of the First Quarter Storm, we always heard the adage, “Let not a single drop of rain go out to the sea without serving the people.” There is also that cleansing and healing power of water. It has been said that sometimes the passions of the heart emit so much heat which only dies down through the cooling effect of the water we drink. From the lowly Earth grows the mighty tree and the beautiful flower. It may contain all that rot but even the wise, the powerful and the beautiful have to return to the earth as their final destiny. The message is resoundingly clear:  man has to continuously move on to seek his destiny but only by being humble can he be exalted.  Once he flaunts his arrogance in utter disregard of the book of nature, he dictates his own death sentence. He cannot continuously arrogate upon himself that false belief that he has been bestowed dominion over God’s creation. On the contrary, there is now the increasing consciousness of bio-equality recognizing the right to life of all God’s creation. Often disregarded, even the unseen Wind has its own story to tell as its fundamental role is only recognized in its absence. How can one live without air to breathe yet it is always taken for granted? Like our love ones whom we have more often than not, taken for granted, yet so integral to us that we cannot live, in fact, without them. The book of nature presents laws which are very easy to understand but have been violated all these years. It says that everything is inter-connected. When forests are denuded, soil erodes forming silts which are carried by the rivers to the sea, destroying the coral reefs which are the habitats of fish and other marine life. This scenario gives credence to that saying that what evil deeds man does in the uplands are felt by those in the coastal communities.   The worsening ecological disasters are the concrete evidence of why it has become imperative for us to now give high reverence to that book as indeed, there is no such thing as free meal in nature.  Just pause for a while and reflect on the laws of nature that we have wantonly violated and in effect, have mocked the book God Himself has written.   Every page of that holy book has been torn and burned by Homo Sapiens with utter disregard to its sanctity as creation is a reflection of the creator. Now, let us well understand that there is no free meal in nature: all boomerang to our own destruction in terms of ecological disasters and in our inability to sustain life on earth. Corona Virus did loom because of the Homo Sapiens utter disrespect to the sacredness of God’s creation. God have mercy on us Homo Sapiens for desecrating the holiest of books. Let notice be served to one all that the only vaccine against Covid-19 is to give high reverence to Nature because Corona Virus is nature’s revenge against the homo sapiens, the most flawed of all of God’s creation a species who have put billions of life forms to extinction and is now even killing Mother Earth.

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Cooperatives: The New Breed of “Freedom Fighters”

June 11, 2020

As we celebrate Independence Day, let us feel the essence of Freedom which our forefathers had fought for in a protracted armed struggle a century or so ago, when a few brave men and women had organized resistance against colonial rule, firmly believing that the people united can never be defeated. Nothing could be sweeter in the history of a nation than unfettering the people from external forces who would dare impose their will as masters subjugating their peons, stripping a nation of its dignity, making a mockery of the people’s ability to govern themselves and craft their own destiny. No way could such subjugation continue.  Such arrogance of having colonial masters dominating a people violated the very essence of man (or woman) for which God created him/her to be as one endowed with intelligence and free-will.  It would only be a matter of time when such cruel societal order would be dismantled by freedom loving people. It is indeed great to be unfettered from the tentacles of direct oppression to savor the freedom of choosing our leaders, freedom of expression, of seeking redress to grievances, freedom of assembly, of privacy, of mobility and what have you. However, there are conditions which are also limiting, if not depriving,  a nation of its liberty.  Poverty, for example, doesn’t only strip a person of his humanity; it imprisons him to a life of hunger and ignorance.  As former US Secretary of State Henry Kissenger would aptly put it, “you deprive one of his right to food and you control his mind.”  We may not be concerned so much with our freedom OF; it is our freedom FROM that we are struggling for during these most challenging times. To liberate the people from the vicious cycle of poverty, from hunger, from ignorance, is now the urgent call of the times so as to win back the very essence of the blessings of independence.  For indeed, a nation-state may be independent in form but not in substance as it may be under the overwhelming influence of another, in more ways than one, as to make it in effect, not absolutely independent. A century or so ago, Dr. Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, among others, became heroes because they dared to respond to the urgent call of the times by inspiring the people to hit the very core of the problem – colonialism.  These nationalistic men had organized the people to wage resistance, trusting in the inherent capability of the people to craft their own destiny. Today, all sectors of society are up in arms against the common enemy which is abject poverty, gross inequity and social injustices.  They follow the same formula adopted by our heroes, which is, to harness the people’s collective potentials and power to have control over their lives and over the resources which are fast slipping through their fingers. Not only do they give high adherence to time-honored and universally-accepted principles; most importantly, they practice them.  These set of principles is anchored on democratizing wealth and power which go by the name of cooperativism. By law, cooperatives loom as instrument of social justice, social equity and people-centered development. Be it in the arena of agrarian reform, food security, ecological integrity, job generation and global competitiveness, these cooperatives are now serving notice to one and all that they will not allow anymore poverty to deprive them of their right to live a dignified life, free from hunger, from ignorance. Through their cooperatives, people are brought into the mainstream of development processes, to participate in the God-given right of decision making and in effected, put power where it rightfully belongs, that is, with the people. The cooperatives which are increasingly becoming a formidable development force to fight hunger and poverty can aptly be called the new breed of freedom fighters, the new heroes of the contemporary times. By harnessing the collective power of the people, they have drawn the poor and the oppressed into the mainstream of development processes. The cooperatives are the great equalizer to democratize wealth and power in a highly skewed societal order. In a country so rich in ecological resources – the richest on earth per unit area and the Philippine Archipelago being the “center of the center of marine life on earth,” no way should poverty be allowed.  But who controls, who profits, who decides? Only a few oligarchs as concluded by a Study. Today, liberation day has come as the 18,000 cooperatives with some 11 million members advancing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – i.e., stop poverty, stop hunger, stop social injustices, stop gross inequities, protect the environment, promote the health of the people, etc.  Indeed, they have become transformative for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace for genuine FREEDOM!

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Amidst the Pandemic | SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUITY IS THE CALL OF THE TIMES

June 8, 2020

The essence of life is not just equated to one’s breathing. I breathe therefore I exist is only applicable in a consumerist and materialistic society but not in the value-based and spiritual life of human beings who are embodied spirits. The awakening process has begun, trail-blazed by those protesting in the United States that is now increasingly echoed globally.  The call in the United States is racial justice triggered by the unjust killing of an African-American named Mr. George Floyd by a law enforcer. Indeed, equity and justice, be it racial or social seems to be the contemporaneous call of the times.    It is not difficult to understand racial injustice especially in the United States based on a false belief that the white race is more superior than the black’s. That kind of  racial prejudice does not exist in the Philippines. The problem in our country is more of social injustice. Thus, before we can promote social justice, let us reflect for a while and know the horrible “faces” of social injustice in the life of the workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk and the common “tao” in a country that declares in the Fundamental Law (Art. II, Sec.10) that, “The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.” The workers are producers of the wealth of the nation, yet, they live in dire poverty.  In fact, they are leaving in droves, as if jumping from a “sinking ship,” to find jobs in foreign lands, leaving their love ones behind at so much social cost. Food comes from their farms but the dining tables of the farmers fall short of it, tilling lands not their own and if they do, tied-up to costly seeds and technologies that adhere to conventional agriculture which is beyond their control.  They sell their products under the mercy of “compradors,” following an oppressive marketing system that makes their farming non-viable. Aptly described as the “unsung heroes” and the “backbone” of the country, yet,  they wallow inside the vicious cycle of poverty.  How about our indigenous peoples? Well, they have become “squatters” in their own native land as the ancestral land which their forefathers had occupied for hundreds of years are now converted into massive plantations. These are the “blessed lands” of our indigenous peoples and these are the choicest of land.  According to a Study of the Development Academy of the Philippines, some 63% of Mindanao is now under the control of Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) and our IPs find themselves farming marginalized and highly steep mountainous areas.  “Gamay lang nga tulod, ang kabaw moligid na.”   The “blessed lands” have ceased to be so because these lands, where plantations have loomed, reek with poisons, having been  bombarded  for several decades with multifarious toxic chemicals, 8 of which are already internationally banned (based on the examined samples of water, air and soil in Davao.) Certainly, these chemicals are carcinogenic, the reason why cancer has become a common disease of the Mindanawons. As for our fisherfolk, they are the ones catching fish, yet their children are hungry as malnutrition is highest in the coastal communities.  This is so because the grandeur of the Philippine bays is now fast disappearing as they undergo progressive state of impairment and with it, the marginalization of the coastal populace.  Unlike before when fish would literally jump into their “banca,” fish now can hardly be caught. Why? What are the fatal blows causing the death of the once mighty marine and fishery ecosystem?  Well, the bays are treated as waste pits.  First is industrial pollution.  Chemical waste from industries and factories are dumped in the bays. Other silent killers are the internationally banned chemical fertilizers and insecticides which are heavily used in surrounding plantations.   Having narrated the many faces of social injustice, what looms is the imperative call for social transformation. But for those who have advocated, sacrificed, struggled and even died for its, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of martial law and two people-powered revolutions.  The ingredients, systems and structure that perpetuate social injustice have been as formidable as ever. BUT NOT UNDER THE PRESENT DISPENSATION AS SOCIAL CHANGE HAS COME  THROUGH COOPERATIVISM! No less than the highest law of the land, the Constitution, has provided in Article 12, Section 15, “to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of social justice, equity and economic development.” This noble undertaking can only be done by harnessing the collective power of the people through cooperativism. We have now some 18,000 cooperatives with some 11 million members who are now empowering the poor and the oppressed and drawing them into the mainstream of development processes. Cooperativism is now the countervailing force against climate change and violent extremism.  Recently, some 15,000 MILF combatants in Camp Bilal, Munai, Lanao del Norte under the command of Kumander Bravo have been organized into cooperatives This was followed by MILF in the North Eastern Mindanao Front headed by Sultan Abdul Amoran, commander of the 1,500 combatants of the Special Force Unit in Camp Arcam, Maguing, Lanao del Sur now organized into cooperative.  In Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, Arnold Acebedo known as Kumander Subang, the Over-all Chieftain of the 10,000-member Manobo Tribe surrendered and is now frontlining cooperativism for social transformation where social justice and equity is the order of the day. Finally, a miracle of ending the second longest war in the world – the Mindanao War - is now in the offing.  The Land of the Brave and the Free which is Mindanao is the richest on earth with regards to mega diversity. Based on the Study of the UN-FAO, Mindanao Is the richest ecologically per unit area as one can find in the 6,000-ha. Mr. Kitanglad more species of flora and fauna compared to those found in 1 billion ha. continent of North America.  But the ecological wealth is not just found above the ground; beneath is oozing with minerals, i.e., gold, silver, copper and what you. It is paradoxical to note that based on the UNDP Study” that, “of the 25 poorest provinces, 14 are in Mindanao and are suffering from high poverty gap ratio” Who Profits? Who Decides? Who Benefits? From all of these wealth? Such paradox is now being rectified through people empowerment called COOPERATIVISM,  the GREAT EQUALIZER!

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All roads lead to Uptown

June 6, 2020

After experiencing this economically humbling pandemic crisis understanding the true potential of Uptown Cagayan de Oro is probably the key to unlock the bright future for many business ventures in town. The City has a population of nearly 700,000 according to the last census in 2015 and has ambitious city expansion plans in Barangays Carmen, Canitoan, Lumbia and Pagatpat in Uptown making it the flagship project of the new growth areas of the city. According to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan 2019-2027 the vision is to build a mixed use modern district on a 850 hectare area in Lumbia conceptualized by UN Habitat's Achieving Sustainable Urban Development (ASUD) Project with a government center, green belts, parks, open spaces, tree parks and tree strips along the main thoroughfares.  While these development plans may still take some time to become reality the existing part of Uptown CdO is already a thriving community of businesses, commercial districts, bars & restaurants, schools, residential and commercial housing developments, stylish mixed-use green condominium developments with retail, commercial, office and residential spaces designed by renowned international architects, hotels, Xavier University, a brand new hospital under construction, the regional trial court, an 18-hole first class golf course, an SM Mall and a PEZA accredited Special Economic Zone like the Pueblo de Oro I.T. Park that offers a superior location for I.T. and BPO locators. On top of SM's expansion plans the home-grown mall operator Gaisano has also just recently announced its intention to build a 5-storey mall in Lumbia, just across Gran Europa. Such a development will add great value to the already existing commercial facilities in Uptown and will create new jobs. Even the city's well known white water rafting or kayaking adventures, one of the city's prime tourism activities is located along Cagayan de Oro River in Uptown. The fact that Cagayan de Oro Port has just recently opened the Philippine's biggest port passenger terminal makes it clear why the city is being classified as a strategic and prime development hub of the South, a major gateway and trans-shipment hub to/for Mindanao, especially through the access to the fertile lands of Bukidnon, part of which is now also included in Metro Cagayan de Oro. While downtown has been prone to natural disasters especially during the past 10 years Uptown instead has remained free from calamities and is definitely considered one of the safest places to live. With the upcoming Opol-Canitoan diversion road that will allow traffic going to Uptown to bypass Iponan and Bulua you can truly say that “all roads lead to Uptown”.

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