Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme

Cooperatives for people, planet, profit and peace

June 15, 2016

PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – In his usual passionate way with words, Undersecretary Orlando Ravanera punctuated his presentation and sharing with the ASEAN Social Forestry Network CSO Forum on June 13, 2016 in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines.

“Cooperatives are not only economic enterprises but liberating and empowering socio-economic systems that eliminate structures that perpetuate social injustice and inequity.”

He shared that the cooperative movement in ASEAN was 300,000 cooperatives strong with the membership in the Philippines alone being 14M members. Undersecretary Orlando Ravanera, the Chairperson of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) of the Philippines, was invited to the ASFN CSO Forum in efforts to further engage other ASEAN working groups to mainstream community forestry enterprises in ASEAN Economic policies and programs. USec. Ravanera is actually also the Vice-chair of the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Agricultural Cooperatives (ASWGAC).

During his presentation, he highlighted how cooperatives could be instruments of ecological integrity, poverty reduction and peace by promoting sustainable agriculture, distributing wealth and providing opportunities for solidarity.

Maria Cristina S. Guerrero, Senior Adviser of NTFP-EP Asia, mentioned that in the organization’s analysis, NTFP enterprises and cooperatives that are strong are those that can integrate agricultural crops and forest products in their businesses, “Having a diversity of products reduces the risks of depending on one crop or product. NTFP-EP has been able to assist rattan gatherers in Sulawesi stabilize their income with improved rattan prices when cacao prices were low, for example.”

During the session, forest-based cooperatives from Palawan shared their issues and concerns with USec. Ravanera especially on increasing taxes levied on the cooperatives as well as numerous compliance requirements. He clarified further that cooperatives are tax exempt and that the CDA is more understanding when it comes to cooperatives that are micro and small in size.

He mentioned, “It is not the Letter of the Law that should kill but the spirit of the law that should give life” reiterating that cooperativism should not always be seen in legalistic terms or cooperatives would never get the chance to grow, excel and thrive.

Participants from Laos and Malaysia stressed the foundational pre-requisites of cooperatives being secure land for farmers and the opportunity to choose multi-crop planting models to enhance biodiversity.

USec. Ravanera’s presentation was inspiring and his responses to cooperatives a relief for the indigenous peoples and community forestry cooperatives in the room. His passionate statements were most evident on forest conservation and environmental protection, enjoining one and all to use cooperatives to care both for people and mother earth.


Article by Crissy Guerrero –  Senior Adviser, NTFP-EP Asia
Photo by Earl Diaz – Communication and Knowledge Management Officer, NTFP-EP Asia