THE MINDANAWoN CO-OPERATIVE MOVEMENT
MASS-SPECC THROUGH THE YEARS
MASS-SPECC traces its beginnings in the early 1950s, a period of severe economic hardship and political uncertainty. Co-operatives at the grassroots level were seen as effective alternative mechanisms to address these problems. Several co-operatives were organized by leaders in Cagayan de Oro City and the provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon. These co-operatives started to provide savings and credit services to their members in the communities.
During that time, the need to participate in a co-operative inter-provincial initiative was strong. Hence, they bonded together in 1962 to form the Misamis Oriental- Bukidnon-Camiguin Federation of Cooperatives (MBC), which eventually became the model and strongest secondary co-op organization in the country.
By 1966, the leaders of the MBC Federation of Cooperatives felt the need to strengthen the educational component of the community-type co-operatives.
On August 9, 1966, the Southern Cooperative Training Center of MBC was (later known as the Southern Philippines Educational Cooperative Center or SPECC) established to meet the educational needs of the co-ops. Its first task was to rationalize the Pre-Membership Educational Program (PMEP). This program was so successful that it was brought to different parts of Mindanao. In 1968, the Bishops of West Germany, through MISEREOR, funded the Third Asian Credit Union Training Conference in Cagayan de Oro City, which was organized and conducted by SPECC. In 1969, SPECC trained the staff who would carry the continuous holding of PMEP to various provinces in Mindanao, to as far as Zamboanga, Davao, Surigao, and even in the Visayas Province, to Cebu, Leyte, Negros, and on to the Bicol Region.
In 1970, SPECC gave its first Cooperative Leadership Program, a 90-day in-house training course, offered yearly until 1980. Later, other long courses followed, namely: the 30-day Consumers Coop Management Course and the 45-day Credit Union Management Course. At this time also, SPECC spearheaded the formation of provincial co-op federations all over Mindanao. These federations were to provide extension and pre-membership education services to co-ops in the provinces. The auditing services were set up to provide financial inspection in the operations of the co-ops. In 1971, SPECC started the first co-op mutual protection system in the country, now called CLIMBS or Coop Life Mutual Benefit Services, Inc.
SPECC conducted many other seminars, which gave co-op leaders all over Mindanao the opportunity to discuss their problems and solutions together. Through these activities, unknowingly, a co-operative movement was being forged.
After constantly meeting in a span of two years, the leaders discussed the possibility of forming an alliance. After a Mindanao-wide consultation seminar in 1973, co-op leaders representing 11 provincial federations in Mindanao organized the Mindanao Cooperative Alliance (MCA), which was tasked to articulate the views of the private voluntary sector on issues affecting co-operatives collectively. At the same time, it was the socio-political arm of the movement to protect the gains of the co-operatives.
The MCA came into existence a few months after Martial Law was declared. This was a time of trial and difficulty for the co-operative movement. The proclamation of Presidential Decree No. 175 and Letter of Implementation No. 23 placed the co-ops under state sponsorship and superimposed structure. Hence, it had to change its name and legal character to a non-stock, non-profit organization known as the Mindanao Alliance of Self-Help Societies, Inc. (MASS).
To the co-operatives, which put foremost the value on autonomy and self-reliance, the government control and intervention posed serious blocks to their efforts. The co-operative movement made a strong protest which led to the harassment of some leaders and threats to co-operatives. Despite these, the movement survived.
It was on January 12, 1973, when leaders of SPECC organized MASS to provide support services like audit, technical advice, and extension services as well as to represent their interest with the government and other stakeholders.
MASS proceeded to establish technical programs to benefit the co-ops. In 1974, it set up a printing press to serve the co-ops. In 1978, it initiated a financial intermediation system known as the Central Fund.
Meanwhile, SPECC expanded its educational activities to include audit as well as extension work. Finally, on July 1, 1984, MASS and SPECC were consolidated to maximize the organizational, financial, physical and human resources of both institutions. The merged organization became what is now known as the MASS-SPECC Cooperative Development Center.
In 1985, MASS-SPECC established the inter-co-op agricultural trading program. In 1991, it set up an organic fertilizer plant.
In 1995, in partnership with the Development Internationale Desjardins, MASS-SPECC ventured into a standard savings and credit co-op software. In 1996, it started its computerization program with primary co-operatives. This was done with the introduction of the General Ledger System. It also started when the MSRTE (MASS-SPECC Standard Run-Time Edition) system was established, beginning with four MBDOS systems. This is now running in nearly 560 sites.
In 1997, with the investments of primary co-ops and the fund from MISEREOR, MASS-SPECC put up the six-story building in Cagayan de Oro City. The building serves primarily as a venue for co-op training programs and a center where co-operators could meet, dialogue on issues affecting the co-op movement and Mindanao development in general.
In 2005, a new service on Consultancy for Financial Intermediation was operationalized, with eight co-ops joining the service by end of 2006. In February 2006, MASS-SPECC piloted the first Pinoy Coop ATM in the whole country.
The year 2007 showcased the pioneering spirit of MASS-SPECC in Information and Communications Technology. Megalink connectivity of the Pinoy Coop ATM was realized on December 12 of that year. Along with this comes a number of firsts: MASS-SPECC became the first co-operative to be a member of a national ATM network; the first to own and operate the very first co-operative data center in the whole country; and the first time a youth representative was elected to the Board of Directors of MASS- SPECC during the year’s Youth Congress in the 2007 Mindanao Co-op Leaders Congress. Also, it was in this year that the GA approved the conversion of the Co-op Guarantee Fund into the Co-op Stabilization Fund to ensure the stability of member co-operatives.
In 2008, MASS-SPECC launched the Mindanaw Micro-entrepreneur Award or MICMA. The Award seeks to acknowledge the contribution of the co-operatives in alleviating poverty through the co-op’s support of micro-enterprises. It is also aimed to encourage co-operatives to further provide appropriate support to its members.
The following year, 2009, saw the signing into law of the Cooperative Code of 2008. It is a milestone reached thru the untiring efforts of the late Coop NATCCO Party-list Representative and former CEO of MASS-SPECC Gil Cua.
In 2011, MASS-SPECC expanded its E-services facility to make available to the member co-operatives the MASS-SPECC Internet Banking System (MIBS) and the On-line Transaction Point of Sales (POS) system. These facilities enable the Pinoy Coop ATM cardholders to do transactions at their own convenience. Also, during the year, MASS-SPECC launched the first-ever synchronized tree planting event with 2,500 trees planted in one day by ten member co-operatives from the six regions in Mindanao. The event was intended to show that coordinated effort, no matter how small, can contribute to and form a larger and more powerful response in tackling global warming and the vital role of co-ops in addressing the issue.
In 2012, ATM transactions reached the one million mark. A total of 1,104,226 Acquirer, Issuer, and On-Us transactions were recorded with 71,144 Pinoy Coop ATM cards used by the member co-operatives. This shows the increasing patronage of member co-operatives of the federation’s ATM facility. Also rolled out in the year was the first co-op e-learning program for co-operatives. MASS-SPECC put up in said year the website – www.virtucademy.com through which the courses required by RA 9520 for co-operative officers could be accessed.
In 2013, an organizational assessment was conducted to redefine the role and future of MASS-SPECC as a real and genuine federation. As an off-shoot of this process, the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) was created at the regional level. Considered a significant step towards the realization of MASS-SPECC’s aspiration to put the member co-operatives first at the center of development endeavors, the RSC setup paved the way for the amendment of the federation’s Articles of Incorporation and By-laws to provide equal representation of member co-operatives at the governance level of MASS-SPECC. The year also marked the first time MASS-SPECC’s assets reached the Php 1-Billion Mark. With the increasing resources of the federation, more and more co-operatives could be provided with affordable and accessible technical and financial support for the improvement of their operations.
In 2014, more innovative programs were launched, such as the Agri-based Enterprise Systems Program (AgriBEST) and the Capacity Building (CB) program for co-operatives. The AgriBEST is aimed at developing farmers to become agri-entrepreneurs, thereby promoting sustainable communities. The CB program, on the other hand, is intended to address the challenge of satisfying the social, economic, environmental, and cultural needs of the individual members while achieving the financial viability and growth of the co-operatives.
In 2017, a 10-year Strategic Communication Plan was crafted by our co-operative leaders, based on the results of a qualitative research on the perceptions of MASS-SPECC’s member-owners toward the federation. The plan was the basis of the 5-year Strategic Plan of the federation that accentuates strengthening the Co-operative Identity as set forth by the International Co-operative Alliance.
As approved by the General Assembly in 2018, member co-operatives of MASS-SPECC started adopting the movement vision – All Members Enjoy Better Quality of Life – that emphasizes the real essence of co-ops in uplifting the lives of their members.
MASS-SPECC stands proud for its ISO Certification on Quality Management System issued by TUV Rheinland in 2019, a testament to its passionate and significant business operations and services to its members and communities. The Yaman ang Kalusugan Program (YAKAP) also took off this year. YAKAP aims to provide affordable health services to co-op members, which is made possible by co-operatives pooling their resources and sharing this service among all co-operatives. The Central Fund mobilized special-purpose funds from co-ops to help other co-operatives affected by the destructive earthquakes in southern Mindanao. Called the Reconstruction and Rebuilding Fund, co-operatives can borrow long-term from this fund at a low interest rate for relocation, rehabilitation, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to enable them to restart operations.
In continuing to lead the digital transformation of member co-operatives, MASS-SPECC launched the Pinoy Co-op Core 3.0 in 2019, a centralized and web-based version of the accounting system that allows co-ops to integrate branch operations and generate consolidated financial reports. This initiative aspires to interconnect co-operatives and serve the members with ease.
As the pandemic hit the world in 2020, MASS-SPECC developed solutions in concrete and sustainable ways to address the needs of the member co-ops, most especially those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and natural calamities. It has also generated more funds to augment its loan portfolio and pooled together special-purpose. Through solidarity and bayanihan during the global pandemic, 160 co-ops (almost 50% of MASS-SPECC’s total membership) reported to the federation a total outlay of over Php1.23B, used to distribute cash, food, and other necessities to their members, staff, communities, and local government units (LGUs).
The informational campaign #CoopHEROtives was also born to recognize and popularize the co-operatives as heroes in many ways. The hashtag in CoopHEROtives symbolizes our commitment towards digital transformation and reaching out to our members through the internet.
MASS-SPECC has unveiled a new strategic plan to address the needs of the times and strengthen the relevant initiatives that the co-operative movement has already started.
MASS-SPECC strives to create a culture of inclusivity, empowerment, and sustainability in its every undertaking and innovation. Empowered co-operative members are essential for the success of our 2027 Strategic Plan for the Co-operative Movement. MASS-SPECC’s programs have been finetuned to respond effectively to the co-ops’ developmental goals and aspirations.
In sustainable ways, MASS-SPECC has developed solutions that address the needs of the member co-ops, most especially those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural calamities. In 2021, MASS-SPECC generated more funds to augment its loan portfolio and pooled together special-purpose funds to ensure no one is left behind unaided. MASS-SPECC proves to be a strong community in itself and beyond.
In order to promote the co-op values and principles, the General Assembly has approved the co-op movement marque and tagline to be adopted by the member co-ops — bringing the federation closer to a unified and principled approach to realizing the vision: “All members enjoy a better quality of life.”
In 2022, the federation has proven that working together can rebuild ravaged homes, strengthen relationships, and nurture meaningful new partnerships. The scars left behind by Odette in the lives and livelihoods of our member co-operatives and its individual members have been drastic that families and communities are still in the process of recovery from the catastrophic devastation. In these trying times, we are all emboldened even more to embody our co-op values and principles of sharing and growing together toward an inclusive and holistic rehabilitation and rebuilding. “Operation Pagtinabangay: New Roof, New Hope” has provided roofing materials to more than a thousand households that are members of the co-operatives in the CARAGA region.
To bring the federation closer to a unified and principled approach, MASS-SPECC, together with various co-operatives as partners, launched the KoopSkwela: Co-op Computer Learning Hub Project, an exciting opportunity to promote the co-op movement while the learning hub is on mobile or roaming around the streets.
Other communication initiatives, such as the CoopHEROtives, Coop Monitor Newsletters, and The SDG Reports, continue to popularize the unique identity and ideals of co-operatives, especially in the digital space. MASS-SPECC’s growth this year has not only created impacts within its co-op movement but also beyond it, contributing to the recovery of our country’s economy.
In recognition of our efficient business operations and services to our members and communities, MASS-SPECC is proud to have received the ISO Certification for the second time. We are actively working towards obtaining additional ISO certifications, further validating our commitment to excellence.
MASS-SPECC’s present and future programs and policies exemplify its unwavering commitment not only as a co-operative federation but also as an empowering force that enables its members to embrace the values and ideals of co-operativism. Together, we are forging a path toward inclusive and sustainable development, creating a better future for all.