— Over 6,800 farmers are expected to benefit from the Social Security System’s SSS partnership with a multi-awarded local cooperative, which will pave the way for the social protection of thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries in the Caraga region. In a press conference held in Butuan City recently, SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. said the Baug CARP Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BCBMPC), which operates eight branches in Agusan del Norte, Surigao City and Bayugan City, will earn the distinction as the first-ever SSS servicing partner agent (SPA) based in Mindanao. The four organizations earlier accredited as SPAs are all based in Luzon.

“Our tie-up with BCBMPC is a major step towards our vision of universal social security coverage. We want to reach out to informal sector workers, no matter where they are, because they often have little access to social security,” he said. “Farmers, in particular, are vulnerable because their tasks are physically demanding and their income is largely dependent on the whims of nature.”

As an accredited SPA, BCBMPC can receive its members’ applications for SSS registration, salary loans and funeral claims. SSS will also intensively train BCBMPC’s designated representatives on SSS programs and procedures to ensure correct delivery of their non-collection services. De Quiros and BCBMPC Chairperson Magdalina Tiu will sign the memorandum of agreement during ceremonies at the BCBMPC office at the municipality of Magallanes in Agusan del Norte on June 7.

“Our target is to cover 90 percent of BCBMPC’s more than 7,500 members, most of whom are farmers. We want them to become active SSS members, whether they are first-time registrants or previously-covered members who have stopped contributing,” de Quiros said.

Since it began operations in 1995, BCBMPC has received over 20 awards for its exemplary services such as loans granting; handling of deposits and special savings; operating a consumers store to help members sell their products; and managing the Pinoy Coop ATM network, Caraga’s first ATM cooperative and the country’s first ATM service for agrarian reform beneficiaries.

In 2012, BCBMPC garnered six distinctions, including four Gawad Pitak awards from the Land Bank of the Philippines, one Sipag award from the National Livelihood Development Corporation and one Gawad Parangal award from the Cooperatives Development Authority.

“SSS, like BCBMPC, aims to empower farmers through safe and secure programs that help them prepare a bright future for themselves and their families. We are happy that our first partner in Mindanao is a stable and trusted organization with an excellent track record in taking care of its members,” de Quiros noted.

In a show of support for SSS programs that help poverty alleviation, BCBMPC shouldered the cost of production and delivery of the AlkanSSSya unit for the use of nearly 100 members of the Magallanes Cabadbaran Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association (MCTODA).

“Some MCTODA members are also farmer-members of the BCBMPC. Apart from being farmers, they also work as tricycle drivers in-between cropping seasons while waiting for their harvest to grow,” de Quiros said. “The MCTODA AlkanSSSya launch will come right after the SSS-BCBMPC signing and will be held at the same venue.”