First Community Cooperative (FICCO), one of the largest and fastest growing cooperative in the Philippines which originated in Cagayan de Oro City, is setting up branches in the Visayas and Makati City in an attempt to build 20 branches within the next two years according to Vicente B. Rana, chief executive officer of FICCO as published in a local daily.

Ground works for its first branch in the Visayas to be located in Jagna, Bohol has already commenced and it already bought a condominium unit for its branch in Makati City.

The cooperative, which has about P3.8 billion in assets, chose Bohol because of its proximity to Camiguin as there is a passenger ship plying the route.

The condominium unit in Makati City, on the other hand, was bought for P800,000, a cheap price, because the property was foreclosed by a bank, said Rana, who will directly supervise the branch.

Jesus G. Cornito, a member of its board of director, said the two new branches are part of the 16-branch package the cooperative, which turns 56 on July 8, is planning to put up within the year.

“We are looking at increasing our membership to at least 150,000 (from 134,515 at present,” Cornito said.

Rana said that in expanding its operations, the cooperative will continue to be aggressive in its recruitment of new members by showing these new recruits the advantage of being members of a cooperative as it already has 51 branches.
He said the cooperative will tap its funds for the expansions as it does not need any outside help to reach the goal it set for the next two years.

“We will continue to explain to them our culture of volunteerism and the fact that we offer the lowest interest in lending (compared with other financing institution) and the highest interest in savings,” he said in reference to lending interest rates of 8.5% annually and savings interest rates of 4.5% annually.

Although its main business has been lending as it already has a portfolio of about P2 billion this year, Mr. Rana said the cooperative has already started other businesses like a funeral homes and a housing project in Cagayan de Oro City.

In the city, the cooperative has also gone into partnering with some of those who formed themselves into a group so they could avail of units. What the cooperative did was to finance the acquiring of some houses that were foreclosed and allowing those who wanted to own them to pay the cooperative at a very low interest rate, he said.

It was also in the city last year when the cooperative merged with another big cooperative, the Filipino Merchant Cooperative which at that time already had two branches. “The city has remained to be among the biggest areas for expansion,” said Rana as the cooperative is eyeing three branches to put up in the city within the next two years.

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