TO help communities in responding to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emergency, Senate Committee on Health and Demography Chair, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, appealed to the country’s cooperatives to utilize their Community Development Fund (CDF), in order to contribute to the government’s efforts to fight the disease and help their respective community members mitigate the socio-economic impact of the crisis.
“Hinihikayat po natin ang ating mga kooperatiba na gamitin ang kanikanilang community development fund upang mas lalo pang mapalakas at mapalawig ang paglaban natin sa mga banta ng COVID-19,” Go said.
Go suggested that the said fund be used for projects that will benefit the community during the enhanced community quarantine. These may include the provision of food packs, vitamins, alcohol, soap, personal protective equipment for medical frontliners, and other basic necessities to be distributed to those community members who are in dire need of help.
“Malaki po ang maitutulong ng pondo na ito upang mapunan natin ang pangangailangan ng ating mga komunidad habang sumasailalim tayo sa enhanced community quarantine,” he added.
Go, who also sits as a member of the Joint Oversight Committee overseeing the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, cited the unpredictability and uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation in the country as the reason for his appeal. The Senator has continuously reiterated that a “whole-of-society” approach is needed in combatting the public health emergency.
“Lahat po tayo kailangang tumulong sa ating komunidad. Lahat tayo naghihirap at lahat naman tayo gustong malampasan ang krisis na ito. Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para pagserbisyohan ang kapwa nating Pilipino. Magbayanihan tayo,” Go explained.
Under Article 86 (3) of Republic Act No. 9520 or the “Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008”, cooperatives are mandated “to allocate not less than three per centum (3%) Cooperative Development Fund from its annual net surplus.”
Go’s request is also in line with Memorandum Circular No. 2020-30 issued by the Cooperative Development Authority which encourages cooperatives “to utilize their Community Development Fund (CDF), which under Article 86 (3) of R.A. No. 9520, shall not be less than three per centum (3%) of their net surplus, for projects or activities that will benefit the community where the cooperative operates.” These projects or activities are those identified and included in the approved Social Development Plan of the cooperatives.
The memo further states that “food packs, vitamins, alcohol, soap and other basic necessities may be distributed to those community members who are in dire need of help but with adherence to safety protocols, and ensuring that the procurement of these goods will not shortchange the members.”
It also suggests the use of the cooperatives’ Optional Fund for the benefit of their members and employees. This, however, must later on be confirmed by the General Assembly. Under Article 86 (4) of R.A. No. 9520, the Optional Fund shall not exceed seven per centum (7%) of the cooperatives' net surplus. The usage of this fund, however, must later on be confirmed by the General Assembly.
In the event that the cooperative chooses not to use its Optional Fund or if the same is not sufficient for the intended aid purpose, “additional fund assistance may be charged to direct expenses.”
Cooperatives are also encouraged to extend emergency or calamity loans at interest-free or minimal rates of interest to their members, enabling them to meet their needs. These loans are subject to the lending policies of the cooperative.
Cooperative-owned vehicles and properties may also be made available for use by members of the cooperative or community, especially during emergency situations in coordination with local government units.
Go thanked the cooperatives and their members for their willingness to heed his call, saying that their positive response to the request will be helpful and well-appreciated.
“Ngayon pa lamang po ay nagpapasalamat na ako at ang sambayanang Pilipino sa inyong kontribusyon sa laban nating ito,” Go said.
“Magkaisa po tayo at sama-sama nating talunin ang virus bilang isang nagkakaisang bansa. Ipakita natin na walang imposible kung ang diwa ng bayanihan at pagtutulungan ang mangunguna sa ating mga isip at puso sa paglaban ng COVID-19 sa Pilipinas,” he added.
Go called for unity among all Filipinos to overcome the crisis. He emphasized that this is not a time for political bickering since this is a fight for survival where each Filipino must play a part to defeat an invisible and deadly enemy which is COVID-19.
“Kaya ko pong salagin kung ano mang mga masasamang salita na ibinabato sa akin, pero ang makita kong nagugutom at nahihirapan ang kapwa nating Pilipino ay isang dagok sa aking dibdib. Sa aking kapwa Pilipino, sana magkaisa tayo at unawain ninyo na may responsibilidad tayong lahat para sa ikabubuti ng ating komunidad,” Go said.