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Corporate Approach in Investing in ARMM


I convey to the reader of this letter, the universal greetings of peace: Shalom, Assalamu Alaikum, Peace of God Be Upon everyone, Ang Kapayapaan ng Panginoong Diyos Ay Mapasa-ating Lahat.

The subject of today’s event, is very meaningful to me as I believe it also is to all of you, and even more relevant to us in the ARMM, an acknowledged conflict zone, with very low Human Development Index that is reported to belong to the ranks of the world’s poorest regions. With those as background, I will share my thoughts on the subject, the same of which I relate directly to the transformation of my own town, a town that was torn by war and criminality in the not so distant past, but with the Grace of Allah, is now a bustling and peaceful economic village.

How did we do it? What did the town of Datu Paglas have that other equally situated, in fact “less notorious” towns, did not have?

The challenge is how to exploit our God-given natural resources that Allah, swt, in all His Graciousness, Had Gifted ARMM with. These are, among others, year-round weather that is ideal to fruit farming, fertile soil, and sufficient rainfall. And equally more important is the abundance of “warm bodies” in our villages, mostly poor people who are more than willing and happy to welcome work and livelihood opportunities. Just like in the case of the La Frutera banana plantation in Datu Paglas, for everyone that is employed, there’s easily ten others who desire to also be employed.

As we aspire for progress, it is very important that we think of the people, who aspire for a better world not just for ourselves but especially for the succeeding generations. On occasions like this, I always remember a saying of the Wise: “…we did not just inherit this world from our parents, we also borrowed it from our children….”. For truly, when progress is talked about, as it was so in my town of Datu Paglas, foremost in my mind are the children of my town and my people.

Despite the above mentioned natural blessings, what else do we need to do, in order that our dear “poor” ARMM may have a taste of progress? The kind of modest progress that we are now experiencing in my town of Datu Paglas? As my town’s story has shown, Corporate Investing is one such mayor approach. Yes my dear friends, guest, brothers and sisters, Corporate Investors are an indispensable part of economic progress. It is them, who have the proven financial and capital resources, technological skills, management skills, market contacts, among others.

In all humility, I say that next to God’s Blessings, it is ENTREPRENEURSHIP, as far as my own experience and perspective is concerned, that played a pivotal role, the turning point, in my town’s transformation for the better.

There are many definitions of an Entrepreneur, this is the one I prefer. It means an INNOVATOR, it is one who recognizes OPPORTUNITIES and organizes resources to take advantage of the opportunity. In another way of saying, our attitude in the way we view things is a big factor.

Yes, we have to possess the right ATTITUDE. I am definitely not in the position to prescribe what should be done in other people’s situation. Allow me, however, to share my own story, my Concrete Experience, hoping that from it, one may find from this experience how one’s own story may also unfold, in one’s own circumstance, and this time anchored on the sweet fruit produced in ARMM, Insha-Allah, God Permitting.

People often ask, what made the “Datu Paglas Story” happen? It started with the realization that the life of my people must change for the better. But then, that change must also start with myself, the leader. Then, private investments, which I know was the sustainable way to economic development in my own case, must come in. Then, for investments to come in, I must have a “business plan”.

  1. protect the environment at any cost because this is all we have for the next generation,
  2. do not abuse the workers, protect their rights and look after their welfare and safety, and
  3. provide education for the children.

Principle 1, allowed me to operate in a way that is acceptable not only to my international shareholders while it also looked after my moral obligation to the community and the future generation, to ensure preservation of our resources. For me this is more than just a business case, this is very personal too.

Principle 2, allowed me to work within the parameters not only of government regulations but a commitment as well to the teachings of God, thru His different Messengers and lived by different religions.

And the Third Principle, I will continue to invest in the future of our children. I believe and I have seen this myself ---- that poverty and economic inequality are a fertile breeding ground for terrorism. But a healthy and well-educated generation will be the most positive and powerful tool to attain lasting peace, and to preserve the earth’s resources. Let me repeat these very meaningful words, ”we did not simply inherit this world from our parents, the better truth is that: we merely borrowed this world from our children”.

Why Corporate Investment in ARMM? The Datu Paglas Experience and the investor’s having decided to expand in Lanao del Sur had shown that our Muslim Region can be a host to investments. Our valuable autonomy can also be an effective tool to make our Region more responsive to the highly competitive times, when other Regions not just in the Philippines but also our neighbors in Asia, are also competing to offer better terms, to attract investors to bring their resources (money, technology, market access, among others). No less than our dear Regional Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, had conveyed to me his personal support to the campaign, to attract foreign investors into the ARMM.

The investment that we established in Datu Paglas allowed us Muslims to prove our worth, whether it be as a leader, as a follower, as an employer, as a worker, as a professional, or simply as a responsible citizen in out communities. We earned the trust of our investors.

There has for some time now, been an awakening among us different sectors in ARMM, both private and public. Even our different regional agencies in ARMM had proven to the world that they can render very competitive support to investments. This was acknowledged and announced by no less than the country manager of our investors, when he shared his own personal experience about his investments in ARMM, during the ARMM Business Congress in Jolo, Sulu 3 years ago.

Yes, there are a thousand and one good reasons why corporate investors should come to ARMM. BUT, the challenge is upon us to make it happen. We just need to continue doing our best, to make ourselves competitive, and the investors will come in due time. In fact some of them already did, while they continue to observe what we are doing in our little ways.

May this little sharing of personal concrete experience and humble insight have even a little contribution to our Forum. Thank you once again and wassalamu-alaikum, God Bless all of us.