Good news for our kababayans abroad and their families in the Philippines. Last December 18, in celebration of the International Migrant’s Day, we inaugurated the SIDC Coop Mart in Sta. Rosa, Alaminos in Laguna. Sta Rosa Alaminos, is known and often called by many as the Little Italy in Laguna. More than 2,000 of its residents are residing in Padova and Milan Italy and their houses were built in Italian inspired structural design. The migrants from Italy and their family members spearheaded the membership drive with the full support of their Barangay Captain , Hon. Ernesto Sahagun and migrants leaders Serene Mahilum and Verma Villanueva from Padova, Italy. This initiative was made possible through the partnership of migrants from Italy, Atikha and Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative ( SIDC), the largest agri-based cooperative in the Philippines.
The opening of the Coop Mart was very successful. Migrants and their family members trooped to the Coop Mart to register as members on the opening day.
The Coop Mart offers a variety of products, from fresh meat to processed meat products and canned goods. I heard a member say, “Mabuti na lang nandito ang Coop Mart sa ating barangay ngayon. Mura na ang bilihin, tipid sa pamasahe at pag-aari pa natin!” (It is good that Coop Mart operates here in our place. The goods are cheap, we save on transportation and it is even owned by us!)
The SIDC Coop Mart does not only provide cheaper products, it is owned by the members who organized the coop in Sta Rosa. The members share in the profits which will redound to more savings for the migrants and their families. Additionally, the Coop offers other services such as savings and credit facilities; business opportunities such as hog raising, 6 to 9 convenience stores, merienda stand, feeds dealership and others.
Atikha’s own study also shows the growing dependency of the migrant families on remittance and this is one of the reasons why the migrants despite long years of work abroad and higher wage, are not able to save for their long-term goals. Some are able to save but they do not know where to invest their hard earned money.
It was then that we realized that it is important that we support agriculture for rural development in order to create jobs and provide economic opportunities as alternatives to migration. However, it would be difficult to encourage migrants and their families to invest in agriculture with no support mechanism. Hence, we realized that it would be ideal to tap a successful agri-based cooperative that can assist the migrants in managing their agri-business and at the same time, absorb their investments and direct to agricultural initiatives in the areas where they are coming from. Fortunately, after years of discussion and negotiation, SIDC agreed to support and package investments and business opportunities for the migrants and the families left behind. (Mai Dizon-Anonuevo)