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    Financial Empowerment For All

    6 May 2017

    Message at the 21st Annual General Assembly and Stockholders’ Meeting of the Metro South Cooperative Bank, Reception Hall, PICC, 6 May 2017

    Father Anton Pascual, Chairman of MSCB; Mr. Garibaldi Leonardo, Vice Chairman; Ms. Renelia Estioko, President; members of the board of directors, bank officers; members of the general assembly elected committees; management staff; stockholders of Metro South Cooperative Bank; ladies and gentlemen: Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

    Noong nakaraan pong Biyernes, I was invited to speak before the ASEAN Business Advisory Council on the theme “Prosperity for All.” This year’s agenda was interesting: those in power were asked to focus on the powerless, the micro to small entrepreneurs.

    In essence, governments across ASEAN, as well as big businesses in those countries, want to put the agenda of inclusive growth at the center of conversations on development. It is high time we recognize that what is good for the last, the least, and the lost, is also good for all of us.

    First time pong nangyari na naging sentro sa usapan ng ASEAN iyong pagsiguro na iyong maliliit na mga negosyante ay natutulungan, hindi lamang ng mga gobyerno, pero natutulungan ng mga malalaki. Napakalaking bagay po iyon.

    Speaking before you here today, I am reminded of the wonders that unity and collaboration can bring forth. The very principle behind cooperative movements is that each of us is an equal part of an organization, and it is only right that the amount of effort we expend, is met with commensurable benefits, and equal opportunity to participate in governance.

    Take for example your work in cooperative banking. Cooperative banks take deposits and lend money to its members. But here, ito po ang pagkakaiba: the customers are also the owners.

    To my mind, this symbiotic relationship is key to cooperative banking’s unique role as a catalyst for genuine change in our country. When customers are stakeholders in an organization, what is created is a community that has a strong sense of accountability to the organization’s management excellence and very much committed to its growth and sustainability.

    Noong binabasa ko po iyong introduction tungkol sa MSCB, it brought to mind the principles na pinanindigan noong aking yumao kong asawa. Iyong asawa ko po ay naging mayor ng Naga. Isa sa pinakauna niyang isinulong na iyong ordinaryong constituent, maramdaman niya na hindi lang siya beneficiary, pero maramdaman niya stakeholder siya. Maramdaman naman niya na siya ay partner in development. Iyon po ang kaibahan ninyo, at iyon ang pinakamalaking advantage ninyo over the other banks. Kasi dito, iyong nakikinabang, siya rin iyong nagmamay-ari. Iyong nakakatanggap ng benepisyo, kabahagi din siya sa nagsasakripisyo para sa kompanya. At iyon po iyong malaking advantage, gaya ng sinabi ko kanina, kasi kung ikaw ay hindi lamang beneficiary, ikaw ay kabahagi sa highs and lows ng company, sigurado tayong gagawin ko lahat para mapabuti iyong organisasyon.

    The Metro South Cooperative Bank is impressive in terms of membership. Pinag uusapan po namin ito nina Father Anton bago kami pumasok. I was told that MSCB is owned by almost 600 strong primary and secondary cooperatives from all over the country. Hindi po biro iyon. 600 cooperatives.

    The benefits from this diverse network go beyond financial empowerment for a large part of our nation’s poor, and even create an important shift in our people’s values. Commercial and universal banks’ relationship with clients often end after deposit and loan documents are signed on the dotted line, di po ba? Parang kapag commercial banks, kapag nakapirma ka na, naibigay na iyong hinihingi, halos malayo na iyong relationship.

    But cooperative banks and you, the member cooperatives yourselves, teach not just business accountability and transparency, but also thrift, simplicity, and a culture of saving and investing for the future. On top of that, you take the hard road of mentoring, coaching, and encouraging one another. These are the foundations of genuine change; these are the unseen and sometimes under-appreciated efforts that will bring prosperity to all.

    Cooperatives are often perceived by commercial banks as high-risk in terms of credit and growth, but this has not stopped MSCB from providing credit services to them. Instead, MSCB strengthens and empowers cooperative members to invest and grow, so they can match, if not exceed, the potential of their competition.

    Kaibigan ko po iyong iba sa inyo rito. Ayan, sina Roy nandiyan. Naalala ko when I visited you sa Cagayan de Oro. Kinukuwento po nila na ang collection efficiency ay napakataas. So hindi naman yata tama iyong paniniwala ng ibang mga commercial banks na napaka high-risk ng mga cooperatives.

    This form of service hits close to home for me. Because before I entered into politics, I spent more than a decade lawyering for the poor and the marginalized. Bago po ako naging pulitiko, ako po ay isang human rights lawyer na ang sinisilbihan ko po mga magsasaka, mga mangingisda, mga urban poor, mga manggagawa, sa mga lugar na napaka remote and underdeveloped, na walang bangko sa kanilang mga area. Farmers, fisherfolk, and indigents were constrained by their poverty: they did not have their own land, their labor conditions were poor, they had little or no access to capital, and their access to the market was limited.

    Working with these communities made me realize that much of the work of nation building should be done among those who are at the fringes of society. Ito po iyong mga tinatawag nating nasa “mga nasa laylayan ng lipunan.”

    It’s true that our country’s economy has grown and poverty incidence has gone down significantly, but our work with the mga nasa laylayan is far from over. If we want to catalyze authentic change, we must prioritize their needs and welfare in our programs. This is the real measure of good governance and inclusivity: where we don’t want to just wait for development to trickle down to the poorest of the poor. We want to put the poor at the center of the agenda and our business models, the way cooperative banking does.

    Kasi po iyong traditional na pagdating, dapat iyong grasya, dapat iyong development, dapat magsimula sa taas, palakasin, para mag trickle down ito sa pinakamababa. Pero tayo po—kayo pong cooperative banks, mga cooperatives, kami din po na matagal na rin sa paninilbihan—ang paniniwala natin, baliktad. Ang paniniwala natin, kung mayroong dapat pinakamarami, hindi lang iyong natitira, iyong mga galing sa taas, pero dapat magsimula talaga sa baba, para sigurado na lahat na nasa baba ay makaranas ng benepisyo. At iyon po ang pinaka prinsipyo ng cooperatives.

    You and I work on common ground—we are given the opportune task to uplift the lives of our fellow Filipinos who are trapped in the margins of our society.

    For you, it means providing small businesses—which account for more than 90% of the total number of businesses in our country—access to capital. In doing so, you are unlocking multiple doors of opportunities: you are giving them the wealth from their lands, from their crops, from their hard work.

    For us at the Office of the Vice President, meron kaming inilunsad na isang programa. Ang tawag po namin dito ay Angat Buhay. Our Angat Buhay initiative aims to uplift the lives of the Filipino. Once a week, every week, we visit the farthest and poorest communities in the country. We partner with local government units and development partners. One of the programs we are implementing in the communities is financial literacy, where we teach our local entrepreneurs how to manage their finances. Whether it is saving for the rainy day or investing in growing their businesses, we have found that this is how they can join the market and maximize profit.

    The cooperative model has proven itself to be an effective mechanism in unlocking our people’s full potential. It introduces our people to important concepts such as shared governance, leadership, and decision-making, all of which contribute to empowerment. This confidence goes a long way, making for a revitalized and strong citizenry, one that is essential in our progress as a nation.

    The questions we ask ourselves on how to create inclusive growth require deep thought. Marami pong mga tanong na gusto nating itanong. Ang unang tanong: How do we make our institutions an avenue for inclusive growth? Titingnan po natin, iyong mga institution ba natin, nagiging instrumento ba siya para mangyari iyong inclusive growth?

    Pangalawang tanong: How do we level the playing field for all? Paano natin ipapantay-pantay iyong pagkakataon para sa marami? Kasi maraming pangyayari na marami ngang opportunities pero iyong opportunities, para lang sa mga dati nang hindi masyado nangangailangan. Pero iyong pinakanangangailangan, halos kakaunti iyong pagkakataon na binibigay sa kanila. Pangatlong tanong: How can our work become agents of change in the lives of our members? So iyon ang dapat parating tinatanong natin. Iyong ginagawa natin sa araw-araw, paano natin iyon matatransform na tayo iyong magiging agents of change para sa mga the least of our members?

    In our goal of securing inclusive progress, our goal is for small businesses to scale up and become big businesses. They must not be small players forever. Huwag pong makukuntento na maliit. Parating dapat nangangarap, na kahit papaano lumaki. And they need credit for that. By providing financial systems that are accessible to all, we are presenting more options for small businesses to thrive, therefore creating more means for our people to succeed. In the long run, these will result to a steadier and stronger economic growth for our country, which will eventually lead to more opportunities in the banking industry as well.

    Kasi di po ba, ang parating pinapansin, totoo na lumakas iyong ekonomiya. Pero parang iyong nabigyan ng mas maraming pagkakataon ay iyong dati nang mayayaman. So ang tanong: Sa paglakas ng ekomiya, papaano ba natin masisiguro na iyong mga nasa baba, iyon naman mas makinabang sana.

    Now, as our people grapple with new economic challenges, so does your organization. ASEAN is moving closer to complete integration. Stricter competition from outside the country are on their way to our shores. Depositors and borrowers will have many more options, and you can be sure that they will vote with their wallet. Saan ba sila mas makakatipid? Saan ba mas magiging malaki iyong benepisyo? You will be hard-pressed to fulfill your business, as well as social mandates.

    Innovation is crucial if we are to fulfill our avowed goal of genuine change for our countrymen. This era, where knowledge is the most sought-after currency and technology is its biggest enabler, frowns on those who are complacent and unable to innovate.

    Ito po iyong pinaka-challenge. Kasi diba may mga kinasanayan tayong matagal na, na sabi natin ito naman iyong formula na nagwowork. Pero pag nag complete integration po ang ASEAN, marami nang challenges. Hindi na puwedeng kuntento tayo doon sa dati. Ang pinaka crucial po dito, marunong tayong mag-innovate.

    My hope is for MSCB and the cooperative banking industry as a whole, is for you to emerge strong and sustainable from the economic challenges of today. We believe in your mission. We laud your progress. And we encourage you to break ceilings and become the best that you can be in the years ahead.

    Kanina po, nagkukuwentuhan kami nina Father Anton. Kinukuwento [niya] iyong inyong mga panaginip at iyong mga challenges. Ang akin rin pong pinagdadasal, at ang akin pong panaginip din para sa inyo, ay sana iyong ating pamahalaan—kabahagi na rin po ako doon—mas lalong nasa posisyon na tulungan kayo. Tulungan kayong makipag-compete, tulungan kayong makipaglaban sa padating na mas maraming pagsubok dahil po dito sa ASEAN integration.

    Para po sa inyong lahat, congratulations for a job well done over the past 20 years. At good luck and more power for the next 20 years pa.

    Maraming salamat po. Magandang hapon.

    Posted in Speeches on May 06, 2017