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LANDBANK-assisted cooperative helps sustain abaca industry

VIRAC, Catanduanes --- Pursuing a great vision requires a leap of faith. This proved to be true for a small group of Catandunganons when they resigned from their day jobs at a rural bank 10 years ago to start the People’s Livelihood Development Cooperative, which eventually became the Pinoy Lingap-Damayan Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PLDC), now one of the biggest cooperative in the province of Catanduanes and the Bicol region, with more than 12,000 members.

PLDC, a cooperative engaged in microfinancing, and abaca processing and trading, was formed because 22 rural bank workers believed in their vision of improving the livelihood of their community. But it was a hard start-up for PLDC as a cooperative, which had very limited funds to lend to its members. Due to financial problems, new members hesitated to join, while existing ones had to leave.

Pinoy Lingap-Damayan MPC (PLDC) officers and staff led by General Manager Antonio A. Jimenez, Jr., with Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) Region V Director Atty. Ma. Lourdes P. Pacao and LANDBANK Albay Lending Center Account Officer Armel A. Alcantara.(PLDC farmer-members (right photo) dry abaca fibers and prepare for its shipment.

“Even my fellow founding members almost lost hope in our cooperative. But I made them realize that giving up would waste all our hard work and efforts for PLDC. I asked them for a little more patience, which eventually paid off,” Antonio A. Jimenez, Jr., PLDC general manager said.

They held on to keep the cooperative afloat until finally, in September 2011, LANDBANK offered a helping hand, granting them a rediscounting line to finance livelihood projects of its members, a lifeline that kept PLDC afloat, and helped it flourish. Soon, its members and capitalization continued to grow, and PLDC started expanding its operations, from offering micro-financing services to abaca processing and trading.

The coop’s venture into the abaca industry offered an alternative market for abaca farmers in the province to sell their produce, which challenged the monopoly of traders who set prices too low. Because PLDC offered higher prices, traders were also forced to increase theirs to be at par with what the co-op was offering, thus helping stabilize and even increase the market price of abaca in the province.

For over 10 years, PLDC goes around the barangays to buy and haul abaca, saving farmers time and transportation expenses in going to the town proper to sell their produce. To date, the cooperative assists around 4,260 abaca farmers, and generates employment to more than a hundred locals, proving that the co-op is as resilient as the fibers of abaca.

Aside from abaca processing and trading, PLDC also offers financial services to their members, financing projects such as family-managed micro-businesses, low-cost housing construction and improvement, education of their children, and family emergency needs.

“We want to thank LANDBANK for trusting our cooperative. If it weren’t for them, our vision wouldn’t have become a reality. By providing us financial assistance, we were able to extend and help those who needed it the most–the farmers,”Jimenez said.

At present, PLDC remains LANDBANK’s major growth partner in Catanduanes, with a credit line covering three facilities: rediscounting line, working capital for abaca trading/processing, and term loan for the cooperative’s office building. They have also expanded into four branches covering 11 towns of Catanduanes.

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