Press Releases
Seeing opportunities through the COVID-19 crisis It’s business as usual for DOLE-assisted PWD group


That disability is an opportunity presented in a different way is a truth for Mary Joan Nicolas and at least the 60 persons with disabilities (PWDs) who compose the cooperative that she chairs. 

Mary Joan, who is orthopedically handicapped, graduated from the Cagayan State University in Tuguegarao, Cagayan in 1999 with the degree Bachelor of Laws. 

Her passion for public service started at a young age.  So, she was enthusiastic when she was given a chance to work at the Legal Office of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Office No. II in 2012. 

She held a teaching stint at the Tagudin National High School, Mabini, Pangasinan in 2018 before eventually becoming City Legal Assistant II of the City of Alaminos, Pangasinan in 2019. 

But arguably one of the most significant functions she ever held is being President of the Pangasinan Differently Abled Organization in 2018. The task put her in a position to lead the empowerment of PWDs.  In the same year, Mary Joan was elected Chairperson of the Empowered Persons with Disabilities Consumers Cooperative which had only about 30 members then. 

The cooperative was put along the track of further empowerment, when in 2018, the Department of Labor and Employment-Regional Office I granted the cooperative P500 thousand worth of livelihood assistance under the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP). 

With the capital assistance, the cooperative ventured into the selling of One Town One Product (OTOP) of various municipalities of Pangasinan like wines, sardines, bagoong, chips and other products unique to the province. 

For its part, the city government of Alaminos provided an office for the cooperative at the tourism office where a portion of it serves as a show room for the said products where tourists who visit the Hundred Islands National Park can easily access. 

By the end of 2019, the cooperative raked in sales of over P4.8 million with net income of over P500 thousand.  Their collective income increased with their deposit interests.  At the close of each year, the members receive their respective dividends. 

Other opportunities created by the cooperative’s ventures came in the form of employment for its seven members who work three to four times a week. 

The year 2020 started good for the cooperative with a net revenue of around P200 thousand for the months of January and February. 

They were forced to close their store, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The slump in tourism has significantly impacted cooperative sales. 

But as they say, the only disability is the inability to see the ability. The cooperative is now taking advantage of the numerous online platforms available to market their products and gradually recover. 

“We are truly grateful to the DOLE for empowering us so we can empower others.  This is not the time to stop what we have started as a beautiful cause,” Mary Joan said. 

The cooperative is determined to turn things around amid the challenges posed by the current crisis, she said. 

With a strong positive attitude, the battle is half won for Mary Joan’s group. END/Arly Sta. Ana-Valdez with report from Dennis Soriano, DOLE-WPFO

RD Nat V. Lacambra
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