National consultation on Philippine cooperative bill


By Jun Virola, business advisor Philippines

Family farmers in the Philippines, including farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples, are the most vulnerable to climate change, natural hazards and calamities, as well as the vulnerabilities in the market. On the other hand, they are also key to addressing the nation’s food security, rural development and climate-resilient goals. But for them to play their roles well; they need strong and viable organizations that are well governed and managed, have access to capital, technologies and markets, and are fully participating in value chains.

Thus, the need for a Family Farmers Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (FFAFF) Cooperatives Development Bill that will focus on providing the needed enabling environment for policies, programs and services for the FFAFF sector through their cooperatives.

Towards this end, and with support from USAID under the Generating Rural Opportunities by Working with Cooperatives (GROW Coop) project being implemented by Agriterra, the Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka sa Pilipinas (PAKISAMA), took the lead in organizing a national consultation on the above topic among its sectoral leaders from different provinces in the country, as well as organizations and cooperatives within their network, last December 2, 2022 at The Partnership Center in Quezon City. The event was attended by 31 representatives from 14 organizations both in person and online.

PAKISAMA, the leading confederation of farmers, fishers and forestry organizations, as well as women and youth organizations in these sectors, is one of the members of the Technical Working Group for the Agricultural Cooperative Development Agenda (ACDA) that is now being translated into concrete policy proposals such as the FFAFF Cooperatives Development Bill.

The ACDA is being steered by the convenors group composed of Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC), Federation of Peoples' Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC), and AgriCOOPh Federation, who are among the Agricultural Cooperative Development Champions (ACDCs) in the GROW Coop project.

During the consultation, Agriterra presented the early draft of the proposed bill, which responds to 15 priority issues and challenges that were identified during the series of ACDA online consultations with agricultural cooperatives from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in 2021.
From the ACDA study conducted with Brain Trust Incorporated (BTI), a leading think tank and development consultancy firm in the country, 7 Key Result Areas were identified that will help address the issues and challenges such as build scale, improve management capability of agri coops, knowledge management and policy research, advocacy for financial reform, resilient practices, internal reforms, and cooperative resilience mechanism. 
The participants supported the idea of having the bill and most of the provisions that have already been included, but further comments and suggestions were made to make it more inclusive by having special sections or strengthening provisions on women, youth and indigenous peoples, climate justice, social protection and other concerns.

There was also a call to look at defining key terminologies in the bill, specifying aspects of the provisions, rationalizing certain proposed mechanisms, and harmonizing with existing relevant laws and policies. 

And a call for more consultations to be done with different networks and groups of FFAFF and support organizations, as well as to get inputs and support from allies in business and academe, including think tanks in the country.

USAID expressed full support to the initiative, while Agriterra informed participants that the revised bill incorporating suggestions from the consultation will be shared and further planned consultations and activities will be consulted with the convenors and technical working group.

The consultation is the second that was organized for the proposed bill, the first one being done during the Public Food Procurement Forum organized by AgriCOOPh Federation and support organizations last November 23-25 in Cebu City, where the proposed bill earned support and gathered inputs from the various agricultural cooperatives, CSOs and donor organizations, as well as the representative of party list COOP-NATCCO.

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