A Memorandum of Agreement to promote the Fish Right Program through cooperativism was inked last October 17 at the Negros Oriental Provincial Agriculturist’s Office. The MOA was signed among Negros Oriental Electric Cooperative II represented by Atty. Ma. Fe Dicen-Tagle as general manager, the Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources represented by Florencia MepaEa as provincial fishery officer, and DCCCO Multipurpose Cooperative represented by myself as BOD chair.
The witnesses to the signing included Provincial Administrator Dr. Henry A. Sojor, USAID Fish Right Program principal investigator for Southern Negros Dr. Ben S. Malayang III, and USAID Deputy Chief of Party William Jatulan.
The parties have agreed to join forces in achieving the objectives for sustainable fishing, community development, and gender empowerment of the USAID Fish Right Program (USAID-FRP) through stakeholder collaboration, specifically through a program that will facilitate fisherfolk membership in DCCCO and Noreco II.
The MOA seeks to establish a means by which fisherfolk in Southern Negros (cities of Dumaguete and Bayawan and the municipalities of Bacong, Dauin, Zamboanguita, Siaton, Sta. Catalina, and Basay) may become members of DCCCO and engage in alternative livelihood programs that will realign their revenue-generating activities from unsustainable fishing methods and towards those that are more economically-rewarding and ecologically-balanced.
The MOA also provides that the parties shall each appoint an officer to form a three-member DCCCO-Noreco II-BFAR joint committee which shall be responsible for screening of fisherfolk households that may qualify for benefits. Only those who have complied with documentary requirements will be endorsed for DCCCO membership.
Noreco II shall allocate and reserve funds for the enrollment fee per applicant to DCCCO for 500 fisherfolk households per year for three years or a total of 1,500 fishing households in three years. Only those who have satisfied the requirements shall be qualified for Noreco II’s subsidy for enrollment.
DCCCO shall: a) assist the accreditation/registration of local fishing associations with the Department of Labor and Employment so they may qualify for the benefits; b) conduct a financial literacy program for the fisherfolk; and c) identify and develop micro-to-small livelihood programs for the fisherfolk’s alternative source of income.
The Fish Right Program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is aimed to establish and strengthen sustainable fishing in Southern Negros. It “seeks to ensure that there is enough fish … now and into the future” and that “there is always fish” for people in Negros, said Dr. Malayang.
For her part, Atty. Tagle said that Noreco II is proud to be part of this groundbreaking endeavor. “We are not only mandated to provide power but also to capacitate families to have access to electricity and having the sufficient means for its continuous enjoyment.”
In its Board Resolution No. 154-19 dated July 5, Noreco II committed to support the Fish Right initiative in line with its corporate social responsibility, and its electrification goals based on the National Electrification Authority’s seven-point agenda to prioritize the organization and empowerment of consumers such as fisherfolk and women.
As a strong advocate for the protection and preservation of the environment, and as a long-time leader of the cooperative movement here in the Province, DCCCO has also aligned itself with the implementation of the Fish Right program. Our mission is to improve the quality of life of its members and the community, including the fisherfolk of Southern Negros by providing financial literacy, livelihood programs, as well as credit access to enhance their financial mobility.
With this collaborative union, activities will be undertaken that will result to, among others, an increase in the number of fisherfolk becoming members of the cooperative, and to also improve their spiritual, social and financial capacities.
In the spirit of fisheries conservation, DCCCO, together with its partners and stakeholders will continue to work together to advance human and ecological well-being in the country, and to support initiatives that will enhance sustainable resource use and conserve biodiversity.
BFAR, on the other hand, is mandated under R.A. 8550, otherwise known as the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, as amended by R.A. 10654 to coordinate with local government units, and other concerned agencies for the establishment of productivity-enhancing and market development programs in fishing communities, and promote the development, conservation, management, protection and utilization of fisheries and aquatic resources.
Importance of cooperatives The World’s Summit for Social Development, held in 1995, and a UN General Assembly resolution adopted in 1996 recognized the importance of cooperatives in the people-centered approach to social development.
The livelihood and improvement of the living condition of the fishers are essential conditions for the development of Southern Negros.
Cooperatives in various forms have helpful social and economic development. Some positive effects once fishers become members of DCCCO and Noreco II include participation in the cooperative management process, sense of cooperation, empowerment, increase in family incomes, access to credit and loans, development of training courses, prevention of migration to cities, improvement of consumption patterns, literacy development, and poverty reduction.
Fishers can engage in cooperatives as a social self-help movement to empower themselves to deal with the problem of marginalization and poverty.
Joining a cooperative is a way of maximizing long-term benefits in dealing with the threats of fisheries mismanagement, livelihood insecurity, and poverty – as these are harsh realities for many of the world’s marginalized fishers.
Cooperatives have the potential to empower fishers against environmental and socio-economic challenges, such as declining fish catch and income, hunger, natural disasters, sickness and death in their families. (By William E. Ablong)