opinion

Enclosure of the Commons

July 3, 2020

“So rich yet so poor,” that’s how social scientists described Mindanao in their Studies and the root cause of this paradox is what is called the Enclosure of the Commons. For us to understand such, let us reflect on how rich Mindanao is.  That Mindanao is oozing with ecological resources is of no question. Based on the Study of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (UN-FAO), per unit area, Mindanao is the richest on earth in terms of biodiversity. The 5000-hectare Mt. Kintanglad in Bukidnon is the home of flora and fauna whose number of biodiversity is far greater in number compared to those found in the one billion-hectare continent of North America. The richness is not just found above the ground. Beneath are some 72 kinds of minerals. The ecological wealth does not stop at the shorelines as the Philippine Archipelago has been described as the “Center of the center of marine life on earth,” with bays looming with rich marine life. But Studies have shown that out of the 13 major bays in the country, 10 are already biologically dead. In fact many of these dead bays are in Mindanao. Amidst the abundance loomed so much poverty. Based on the Study of the United Nations’ Development Program, the poor in Mindanao are the poorest through-out the nation. Of the 25 poorest provinces, 14 are in  Mindanao and are suffering from high poverty gap ratios. Poverty did loom because of the Enclosure of the Commons which has been described as the transformation of the land including all the natural resources from public to private ownership.  Included in the Commons are our forest. But where all our forest gone? Gone to loggers everyone as the 17 million of hectares of dipterocarp forest with all the biodiversity are now erased from the face of the earth. The forests as one of our Commons are the watersheds that provide us water, our means to life. With our forest and watersheds gone, of  the 25 major rivers in the country, 15 have either dried-up or polluted. Where are all our minerals gone? Gone to miners everyone. It is in Mindanao that you see thousands of hectares of pine-apple, banana, palm-oil and what have you that are feeding the consumerist lifestyle of the people in the North while hunger is evident in the South. Hunger is glaring in Mindanao, an island that has been called as the “food basket” of the country. What a paradox?! In fact, according to the Food and Nutrition Institute, some 28% of the Filipino children are malnourished, 27% are stunted and 30% underweight.  As Commons, the land must be used to respond to the basic needs of the people and must not be privatized to make so much rakings. Let us learn from our Indigenous People. They were once the masters in that land that no one owned because private ownership is not in their language as such is founded on the strong belief that no one can own the land which outlast him. You cannot own the land, the land will own you. Their ancestors passed on to them the use of the land in the spirit of Res Communis (no one owns but every one uses). And rightfully so because just like water and air, land is a means to life. This violent economy of dispossession through massive exploitation of our resources, be forest, water, minerals or land, has not only imprisoned the people especially the Indigenous People from the quagmire of poverty but has put Mindanao in total disarray due to ecological turbulence. This Enclosure of the Commons is now glaringly happening in the life of our Indigenous People in Talakag, Bukidnon. A group of Chieftains headed by Datu Linggi Inhagedan Modesto Pucol, the Chairman and representative of the  Unified Higaonon-Manobo-Talaandig Kitanglad-Kalatungan  Ancestral Domain Council met me recently and reported how their water rights have been violated. Worse, the TULUGAN of the IPs had been wantonly destroyed. This was followed by another report from the Chairman of the IPs Cooperative, Sultan Abdul Amoran with some 2,000 IP members coming from the six barangays stating that their Ancestral Domain has been declared and the subject of a Community Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) without even consulting or even informing them.  Ang tanong po nila, “Kami ay tinuturing na parang hindi tao. Tao ba kami?”      That’s the painful reality. In the Enclosure of the Commons, there is this creation of the “disposable” people by denying rights of access to the commons that sustained them.  You want to liberate our people from the quagmire of poverty? Please respect the Commons. Dismantle the system of Enclosure of the Commons in Mindanao.  World-renowned environmental activist and physicist and a friend, Dr. Vandana Shiva has described Enclosure of the Commons as “the enclosure of the minds and imagination with the result that enclosures are defined and perceived as universal human progress, not as growth of privilege and exclusive rights for a few and the dispossession and impoverishment for the many.” As a countervailing force against the Enclosure of the Commons, the cooperatives  are the liberating force because the DNA of cooperativism is MEMBERS-OWNED (no one shall be left behind; VALUE-BASED & PRINCIPLE-DRIVEN (not having more but BEING more in a world buried in so much consumerism and materialism) and SUSTAINABLE (inclusive growth for people, planet, prosperity and peace).

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RIGHT VOTING, RIGHT LIFE: GO COOPERATIVES

July 1, 2020

IF you vote is for a wrong leader whose vision of the future is only up to the next election, then you are voting to put society in disarray. But voting is not just done during elections or in choosing who should lead us; in fact, you cast your vote every time you buy as you choose from different economic alternatives, i.e., local versus foreign, sustainable versus unsustainable, organic versus inorganic, the essentials versus junks. Buying between local or foreign products, the latter has been winning in all fronts as Filipino consumers are overwhelmingly choosing foreign products. Truth is, when you buy products from other countries, you are supporting the labor force and the economies of those countries where the products are coming from. That is the reason why our country has been consigned as dumping ground of finished products and as cheap source of the raw materials following an extractive economy. That is why there are 3,000 Filipino workers jumping in droves every month (like jumping from a “sinking ship”), leaving their love ones behind just to find jobs in other countries. Yes, we are consuming what we are not producing. That speaks well of a captive mind, an offshoot of the bombardment of advertisements by global corporations. We have good nutritious dairy products from our dairy cooperatives, for example, yet many are still opting to buy milk from China even tainted with melamine  Do you know that our country has been importing some 250 million bulbs yearly from China made partly of plastics and mercury which have to be replaced twice a year when in fact we are manufacturing here in the Philippines bulbs which are climate change sensitive, ecologically-friendly without any plastic or mercury and do not heat up and with a life-span of more than five years? And these bulbs called RYTELIGHT are even cheaper in price and if used, your electric bill will be lowered by 60%? Most importantly, no mercury.  Beware of mercury. The presence of one teaspoonful of mercury in a bay will make the fish not eatable as it can cause cancer.  Let us be mindful of the fact that a country that is consuming what it is not producing will always be penalized by slow growth. Buying between organic and inorganic, the latter wins hands down. Consumers do not know that these inorganic products come from the massive practice of Conventional Agriculture which tied up to the heavy usage of chemicals. This Dominant agriculture paradigm has robbed farming communities of farming that is controlled by global corporations. That is the reason why everyone profits from farming like fertilizer dealers, HYVs agri-corporations, compradors, usurers but not those who are doing the back-breaking job of farming – the poor farmers. Buying organic means that we don’t have to import massively chemicals that have already done so much harm to the integrity of the eco-systems and deaths due to cancer. Buying organic means lowering production cost by way of our farmers trusting in the innate processes of nature and saving beneficial insects which are now nowhere to be found. It also means saving our water-tables from being polluted through the massive use of toxic non-biodegradable chemicals. Buying between the essentials or the non-essentials or junks, again the latter is now the order of the day. Consumers cannot escape from the massive ads of corporations which are giving high adherence to the neo-liberal capitalist system. Buy this, buy that to be happy. Creating so much want based on the money- must-grow principle; perpetuating a rotten economic system that use money to make more money but not to enhance the well-being of the people. Yes, unbridled materialism and consumerism has characterized society’s way of life, even sacrificing Mother Earth that as if nature is inexhaustible. Let us remember what Mahatma Gandhi had said several decades ago, “reduce your want and provide for your own needs,” and that “if mankind has to be saved from doom, development must be harmony with nature and not at its own expense.” This time let us vote well: Buy Local, Buy what are essentials! And in doing so, you support the Filipino labor force, the Philippine economy and the livelihood of the poor. Let us debunk the dominant development paradigm that is now collapsing. But as its last hurrah, like a giant-off-balance, it has to run so as not to fall. In doing so, that “giant” steps on communities and the eco-systems, leaving destructions on its path that impoverish the people and making ecological disasters the new normal. Right voting and right life can only be pursued with a right development paradigm called cooperativism whose DNA is members-owned, value-based and sustainable. Let us harness the collective power of the people against poverty, social injustice, climate change and against corona virus pandemic!

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Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto is a refreshing breath of fresh air in PH politics

June 29, 2020

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina—I had been hibernating thanks and no thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and during one of those rest days, I read somewhere online that Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto regularized 53 casual employees who worked for two decades. For me that is good news since the pandemic had impacted heavily on the economies of countries around the world and security of tenure in employment is crucial to shield employees from the whims and vagaries of partisan parochial Machieveillan politics. I also read that the 31-year-old mayor, the son of celebrities Vic Sotto and Coney Reyes, declared in no uncertain terms that low level, rank-and-file government employees should be shielded from said partisan parochial politics.  I am in awe of this mayor´s pronouncement as it is rare to hear it from elected officials young or old. We are all aware that working in the Philippine government either on the national or local level is bogged down by patronage politics as supporters of winning candidates immediately seek employment and favors. Hence the government had become an employment agency with supporters being hired as street sweepers, cleaners and so on while some allies are appointed as department heads even without eligibility or qualifications whatsoever. Political accommodation is resorted to by winning candidates to ensure loyalty and retain a sizable bailiwick that would be useful in succeeding elections. Mayor Sotto´s move makes me happy since it is long overdue for casuals, contractuals and job order workers that slaved for years without securing tenure, let alone being promoted to better jobs. The 55 casuals who got regularized by Pasig City Mayor Sotto is a tiny fraction of the large bureaucracy of Pasig City Hall.  Then again despite being a neophyte mayor, Sotto acquired a masters degree in public administration which gives him a good grasp of management of personnel. Security of tenure is earned, not bought as a gift with strings attached by traditional politicians to retain loyalty among supporters. Mayor Sotto is like a lotus flower growing in the mud in the middle of a parched and bleak political landscape.  We elders draw inspiration from these young leaders in whose hands lie the country´s future. In my time there are more trapos who tighten their grip on power instead of building a better future for their constituents. That Mayor Sotto headed to local governance instead of showbiz entertainment like his parents showed that while his beliefs and moral center may be shaped by family, he is his own man. And being one´s own person is rare in the chaotic, unforgiving world of Philippine politics. Four years serving Pasig City and Mayor Sotto showed his commitment to education and cracking down on corruption. I hope he continues on the straight and narrow path to good governance and that his journey would find him in the upper echelons of government. Who really knows how far he can go? His leadership and management style had easily won him recognition from institutions like the US Aid for International Development (USAID) and Publicus Asia Inc. , joining an illustrious group of mayors that include Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno. Leaders that inspire us with their clear vision of development, their innovative ideas and political will to implement them should be supported continually by the Filipinos.

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Igpanuyadug Sa Abaga Ta Bayug (Protect Mindamora Falls)

June 26, 2020

“Igpanuyadug Sa Abaga Ta Bayug” is now the call of the Indigenous People all over Mindanao and such call has reverberated even reaching no less than our beloved President, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. To understand from where that call is coming from, let me first go back in history. The indigenous cultures world-wide have understood and experienced life as a continuum between human and non-human species and between present, past and future generations. An 1848 speech attributed to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe captures this continuum: “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people . . .” It is so amazing to know that the culture of the Indigenous People has shown the oneness and interconnectedness of all of God’s creation.  Indeed, the Unseen Being (the Creator) is seen through the wonderful scenery of nature evolving through billions of years. As vividly expressed by the Indigenous People, “Now we know that in our pilgrimage through this life there are holy places where one is made to feel kinship with the divine, Magbabaya; where the heavens seem to bend low over our heads and the angels come and minister to us.” It is there where the IPs connect with Magbabaya. Visit Mindamora Falls where you can see the 3-story waterfalls against the backdrop of radiating plants and blooming flowers and above are flocks of birds hovering above as if dancing to the music of the wind. What could be more amazing than that but now that beautiful scenery is being wrecked by powers-that be to transform that holy place into a tourist spot to make money.  Indeed, humanity has given high veneration to the profit motive that has captured the mind of all governments, all institutions, all universities and even all religious groups.  There is so much denigration of spiritual values and abuses of the rights of the IPs.  Let us see the amazing culture of the Indigenous People and the love to Magbabaya. What was even more awesome then that for thousands of years, the Indigenous People have lived abundantly in a land oozing with ecological resources in the spirit of sharing and services to one another.  They even collectively transformed the land into rice terraces, using technologies that trust in the inherent processes of nature. They were one with nature, knowing when to plant by just looking up the Big Dipper, when the cup–like formation of the stars is seen as tilted that water will flow, that is a sign that it will rain. They were once the masters of the land that no one owned because private ownership was not in their language for no one can own the land that outlasts him/her.  On the contrary, the land will own us as we will all must bow down to the majesty of the land because all will succumb to it when we die. That cultural heritage of Res Communis, that spirit of sharing and service has continued through the years, passing on to the present generation the harnessing of collective power of the Indigenous People which was manifested before in producing the 8th wonder of the world. The contemporaneous society of the Indigenous People has created a different world applying the same formula of harnessing the collective power which is, the genuine essence of cooperativism. Nothing could match the story of empowerment  of the Indigenous People than that of the newly organized cooperatives of the IPs in the six barangays in Kibulag, Talakag, Bukidnon called the “Igpanuyadug Sa Abaga Ta Bayug Agriculture Cooperative” whose razon d’etre is to protect the Mindamora Falls which is now threatened by two LGUs nearby which are now transforming the area into a tourist spot and in doing so, wrecking so much havoc to the environment.  “Abaga Ta Bayug” has been the sacred ground of the IPs not only to the more than 2,000  IP-members of the cooperative but to the millions of IPs in Mindanao.    Without even informing or consulting the IPs, these IGUs dared to intrude and the Chieftains of some the tribes are puzzled no end. “Tumindig po ang aming balahibo.” They wrote our beloved President Mayor Rodrigo Duterte “na sana po matigil na ang kasuwapangan ng iilan dahil kung ito po as magpapatuloy, kami po ay handang magpakamatay at pumatay.” By the way, the elected Chairman of the newly organized cooperative to protect Mindamora Falls is Sultan Abdul Amoran who is half-maranaw and half-higaonon. He is the Kumander of the Special Unit of the MILF North Eastern Mindanao Front with some 1,500 combatants based in Camp Arkam, Maguing, Lanao del Sur. I thank Sultan Amoran for listening to the plea to have a cease fire, form themselves into cooperative to fight the number one enemy of the country which is poverty and social injustice. Ang sagot po nila, “Mga pagari akon samasama tanu kooperatiba. Isa lang ang armas namin ngayon, KOOPERATIBA! Through cooperativism, I firmly believe that the second longest war in the world, the Mindanao War can now be stopped. But please let us join hands to STOP THE ON-GOING DEGRADATION  OF MINDAMORA FALLS, the sacred ground of the IPs! 

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

June 25, 2020

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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An Island of Peace in Uptown

June 20, 2020

One of the many attractions in Uptown CdO is a lush 80 ha “island of peace”. Ranked as the number one golf course in Visayas-Mindanao and designed by the renowned American golf course architect Robert “Bobby" Jones Jr. Pueblo de Oro Golf & Country Club is the ultimate safe haven for many enthusiastic golfers not only from Uptown or the city, but from all over the country and even beyond. Since Mike Gayoso took over as club operations manager the atmosphere has changed drastically for the better at the Club and among it's members. “It is a true blessing to be able to live and work here in Uptown serving the players and making sure everything is properly organised at the Club.  After the community lock-down we opened again beginning of June and operations have now started to normalise” added Mike. In fact he lives just a stone-throw away enjoying his condo-living lifestyle at his serviced apartment in Primavera Residences just besides SM-Mall, a development with all the amenities and convenience he can possibly desire. The 18 hole all-weather par-72 golf course has attracted not only locals but also many foreigners, especially Koreans, Australians and Americans, and many have strategically bought properties nearby, either private homes or posh condominium units, to be able to enjoy a unique lifestyle centred by their favourite game. The Golf Club has also great facilities like a driving range, a practice putting green, tee houses, a pro shop, restaurant, bar, and showers and lockers for male and female. The VIPs of the city are all playing at the Club several times a week and it is therefore considered not only a place for sports and pleasure but also for important business talks. While the men often choose to swing the golf clubs, women hang out in the nearby mall or go dining in the many community restaurants around Uptown. There are also great opportunities for trekking and biking with the kids which makes the whole area very family friendly. Mike further added “We had important national golf tournaments being played here at Pueblo like the 'Philippine Golf Tour' and the PAL Tournament but this year's biggest tournament 'Mindanao Meet', a tournament of all clubs in Mindanao, had to be postponed.” Cagayan de Oro is also called the “city of golden friendship” and you can truly see that spirit among its citizens.  Welcoming everyone with an open heart is one of the main traits of this booming city in the South of the Philippines that is attracting investors from the region, from all over the country as well as from abroad. The City of Cagayan de Oro has drawn out a clear development plan to make it a Metro City within 2025 and more infrastructure developments are under way like for example the Opol-Canitoan diversion road that will speed up the way to and from Laguindingan Airport for all Uptown residents. The City is expanding considerably in the Uptown area with residential and commercial developments towards Lumbia and beyond. As the city grows and more people like foreign and Filipino retirees, OFWs and seafarers are deciding to settle in this vibrant place it is becoming clear that the best area to live and to invest in is definitely Uptown CdO. And if you are a golfer that's not even a question.

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