Cebu CFI Community Cooperative -
Thirty-two years ago, Cebu CFI Community Cooperative had a dream. Today, the Coop has realized it. It has grown from 29 members to thousands, from a capital of P200 to millions, and has gained the capacity to provide people with financial resources.
Beginnings: Early Years, Finding a Home
The Cebu CFI Community Cooperatives was established on April 7, 1970. It was born in response to the needs of Cebu Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court) employees for financial assistance. Prior to Cebu CFI Cooperative, employees had to borrow from moneylenders who charged high interest rates. Then clerk of court and now retired Judge Esperanza F. Garcia, with the assistance of then Executive judge Francisco Tantuico, sought the help of the Scarborough Fathers of Canada. Together, they organized credit union among CFI employees.
The beginning of the cooperative was a discovery and a learning process for all of them. They learned that the primary purpose of the cooperative was to teach members the value of saving first, with credit as a secondary service. “Save first before you spend,” was their battle cry.
They started with only 29 members who were asked to put up subscriptions in the form of fixed deposits. The total collection was Php 200. With this membership and capitalization, Cebu CFI Credit Union Inc. came into existence.
In 1975, a presidential decree requiring cooperatives to have bigger membership and capitalization constrained the cooperative to open its membership to the community. It was renamed and registered as Cebu CFI Capitol Community Credit Cooperative Inc. (6Cs). From its first office at the bodega of Branch 6 of the Court of First Instance, the cooperative was granted the use of a parcel with an odd, dilapidated and vacant building beside the Capitol, under a long-term lease agreement. From its own assets, the coop built a new building. With increasing membership and expanding services, the cooperative was converted into a multi-purpose cooperative in 1990 as Cebu CFI Community Cooperative (4Cs).
Integrating into the Community
The cooperative’s decision to open its membership to the community met considerable resistance from some members who questioned their credibility and capacity to pay. Contrary to members’ apprehensions, the vendors paid their credit obligations regularly and, in sixth months, the first 100 members were able to save more than Php 100,000. The first 100 vendor-members also saved the coop from a serious cash flow crisis by turning in a daily remittance of P20,000 at the height of the coup d’etat attempts in the country in December 1989.
The cooperative envisions a strong, viable organization, responsive to the needs of the members who are united in an effort to achieve self-reliance, justice, peace, democracy, economic, social and political stability. For its mission, it seeks to develop quality members through education and value formation on the ideals, principles and practices of cooperation, and to provide financial assistance to the members that wil enable them to be independent, productive and self-reliant.
Highlights and Milestones
The cooperative provides the following main services to its members: salary loans, educational loans, productive and provident loans, emergency loans, petty cash loans, health care services and others.
In 2001, the cooperative released Php 386 million as loans for members, with commercial/industrial and educational purposes as the highest in terms of availment. As coop members, loans are charged an interest of two percent a month, with diminishing balance on all types of loans. Members earn dividends, rebates, patronage refunds and incentives.
Total membership as of September 2002 was 12,500, majority of whom are local government employees. The rest are classified as private employees, professionals and self-employed. CFI’s credit assistance provides for the members’ financial needs. Among the stores of members is that of a mother who worked as a janitor in a government office. She regularly availed herself of educational or salary loans from the coop to send her daughter to medical school. Now, her daughter works in a hospital abroad.
The coop provided credit assistance to self-employed members who into livestock, swine breeding and fattening. Some members from the mountain barangays and southern part of Cebu accessed credit loans from the coop, which the used to raise hogs and, through biogas generation from animal waste, to generate fuels for households and fertilizers for farms and agricultural lands.
The coop also distributed 320 piglets to the farmers in Dumanjug and helped them with the construction of biogas systems in their households. The coop helps the market vendors of Barili, Dumanjug, Ronda, and Moalboal, Cebu by providing them with loans to support their capitalization of their store, Sari-coop. a community of 40 rattan furniture markers, who are working owners of Rattan Sugbu in Cebu City, availed themselves of a loan through bridge financing. The assistance from the coop enabled the group to resume the export of their rattan furniture to such a chicharon outlets, stores, bakeshops, jewelry-making shops, shoe-making ventures and mobile laboratory clinics, among others. Some of these members were granted bigger loans for expansion.
While most self-employed members pay regularly, the coop also incurs past-due accounts from some members who, after settling their loans, withdraw their membership either because they want to rest from loan obligations or they have become financially stable business proprietors with considerable savings. Others, however, retain their membership without availing themselves of loans and yet maintain savings in the coop.
The cooperative also manages a Tupperware business, an appliance center and a grocery store that extends goods to members on credit. It recently set up a canteen for members at the coop building’s ground floor. The coop also manages a health care program to answer health needs, including hospitalization, medicines and outpatient care of members and their dependents. The coop has medical and dental facilities in the coop premises, managed by a medical team. The coop also provides boat tickets to sea travelers to lessen the burden of members in sourcing finances when traveling. There are also more than 300 children of coop members who save and deposit in the coop.
The Cooperative’s 4C’s Child Development Center has moved to a recently completed school building in Lahug, Cebu City. The school accommodates preschoolers and elementary students and is run by civil service-eligible teachers and a nurse.
Sharing the Gifts
The cooperative supports various community programs such as medical outreach to rural folks. A yearly educational assistance in the form of financial support is provided to San Carlos seminarians, Don Bosco Technical School Scholars, 5 college students at Cebu Normal University, 10 public high school students in Bitoon, Dumanjug, Cebu and 5 high school students in Catmon, Cebu. The coop likewise donates annually to civic organization such as the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (ERUF). An annual Christmas gift-giving is done for detainees at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center.
Cebu CFI has forged partnerships with government organizations, non-government organizations, people’s organizations, and other groups. It has entered into memoranda of agreement with local and national government for the membership of government employees in Region 7. The cooperative assists other coops, acting as a “big brother” to small coops in coordination with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA). It has also sought membership in the Cebu City Cooperative Development Council (CCCDC). Cebu CFI has investments with other coops and banks and was granted a P70-million credit line by the Land Bank of the Philippines.
Journey of the Future
However, CFI also faces various challenges. Among the issues the organizations encounters is the perceived influence of the existing administration of the Provincial Government. The coop, however, is keen of clarifying such issues by tracing the organization’s origins to 1970.
To Cebu CFI, the onslaught of globalization and liberalization and of trade and services changes the landscape in which it charts its journey in the new economy. With these challenges, the coop entrusts its future to its members and to the 20 volunteer board of directors and committee officers and more than 30 staff.
From an initial membership of 29 and assets of Php 200, the cooperative at present has 12,500 members and over Php 377 million in assets. The toils and triumphs of the coop are reflected in the individual success stories of members. These are the triumphs that the coop continues to live for.
With its challenges and achievements, Cebu CFI looks forward to expanding its operations and coverage outside Cebu. After opening its new branch office in Bohol last Aug. 21, 2002, the coop is targeting increased membership in the province of Bohol and Negros Oriental, where they gained members in a matter of months. They anticipate more will join. As a next step, negotiations are ongoing for Siquijor, Leyte, and Samar. Eventually, the coop aims to go nationwide.