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It is with great honor that tonight I stand before you, distinguished members of the Japanese community in my country, together with the other JCCM associates ad guests. I thank JCCM incoming President Mr. Yoichi Amano, for the opportunity that I now have of presenting to you my own thoughts about my region, the ARMM.

Not many know that in my blood line is also present some memories of the 2nd World War which is now only better remembered as lessons of history. Specifically, while the Pendatun clan of my bloodline sided with the Americans, my Paglas grandparents on the other hand, sided with the Japanese forces. For this reason, my grandfather Datu Ibrahim Paglas, Sr. was appointed by the Japanese occupation forces as governor of the then Empire Province of Cotabato (now divided into 5 provinces) and when he died, he was succeeded by his wife, Bai Bagongan. I had requested Mr. Amano to help find this in the records of the Japanese Archives.

Having briefly visited some memories about the historical relationship of my family to Japan, let me now talk about the economic opportunities that ARMM offers, and in so doing, helping address every one’s joint aspirations for peace. It is even more significant at these times because of Japan’s being a member of the International Monitoring Team in the GRP-MILF Peace Process, with Japan significantly focusing on the economic aspect. The visit of JICA Chairperson Madam Ogata to the MILF Camp Darapanan around 3 years ago was very warmly received by us Muslims, as a gesture of goodwill from your country, so precious that is just as important, in fact more symbolically important, than material development aid.


Contrary to common perception, it is not supposed to be difficult to do business in ARMM. The Datu Paglas experience has shown that we can host investors in a competitive manner. As many of you may have already known, my town of Datu Paglas is home to La Frutera and Ardexcor, two companies that are into Cavendish banana plantations, with a combined investment value of approximately USD 35.0 million, combined area of approximately 2,000 hectares, employing around 2,500 workers, producing sweet Cavendish bananas that are exported mainly to Japan. The La Frutera banana plantation has the distinction of being the first lowland banana plantation in Asia to be certified by the Rainforest Alliance, an international environment NGO that looks after the sustainability of banana plantations. I understand that Rainforest Alliance certifies some of Japan’s popular food chains like UCC coffee and Mcdonalds.

Other investments in ARMM that are showcases of success are the highland banana plantation in Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur, and the pineapple plantation in Wao, also in Lanao del Sur. Both investments also export their products to Japan.

Those investments, although many believed would never succeed at the time they started around ten years ago, are now showcases of excellent performance. The plantations in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao province as well as those in Bumbaran and Wao towns in Lanao del Sur, were the best performing lowland banana, highland banana, and pineapple plantations respectively, of our investors.

Questions are rightfully asked as to why there are no other major investments in ARMM that are in the scale of the above-mentioned. Perhaps it is because of perceptions, true to a certain extent, of peace and order problems. Admittedly, the Moro revolutionary struggle is something that has been going on, with its origin tracing to colonial times. Quite frankly though, and as many of you know, ARMM does not have the magnitude of criminality that are also happening in other parts of the Philippines, in fact in other parts of the world. Worst bombings and more rampant kidnappings even happen in Manila. Perhaps we just have to recognize that these things are unfortune realities of life. The Maguindanao massacre though, is an entirely different story, and admittedly could be considered the darkest moment of ARMM political history.

ARMM is a fairly young government unit, and in fact as President Aquino was reported to have said, it was an “experiment that failed”. But political terminologies aside, ARMM is about people who love peace, ARMM is about a territory that very abundant in natural resources. Liguasan Marsh is said to be rich in natural gas, in fact explorations are ongoing by different companies. The island provinces of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-tawi are very rich in marine resources, the catch in those waters also reach Japan. There is still an abundance of water and underdeveloped lands particularly in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur. The weather provides for excellent year-round growing season, the soil is still very fertile.

On the side of governance, although much is said about lack of it in the ARMM, sad to admit that to a great extent it is true, there are also showcases of good leadership among us Muslims. There are also a good number of dedicated, honest, hardworking Muslim workers in government. As our own investors to the above-mentioned projects had attested to in various occasions, their personal experiences in working with the LGU’s of the towns of Datu Paglas in Maguindanao, as well as in Wao and Bumbaran towns in Lanao del Sur, were “exceptionally satisfactory”. At the regional level, our investors had also appreciated the support given to them by the Regional Board of Investments, the Regional Department of Labor, and other regional departments in ARMM.

Even with regards the MILF, many are surprised whenever our investors say that they consider the revolutionary organization to be very supportive of their developmental projects, and had ironically in fact, helped ensure peace and order in their plantations.


Admittedly, confidence is always a key to convincing investors to come into an area, more so in the case of ARMM. This is in the same manner that the above-mentioned investors first had to get to know the leadership of the town of Datu Paglas before they decided to come in. Confidence starts with what we call “getting to know each other”. This process of getting to know each other is actually already ongoing, this comes in the form of person-to-person interaction. It comes in the form as symbolic as the visit of Madam Ogata as I mentioned above, or in the much appreciated visit of Japanese Consul General Isoda to Datu Paglas last year, on the day of our Eidul Fitre, the feast of our last day of Ramadhan, a visit that greatly touched the hearts of many in my town, even those of the other Muslims outside of my town.

This peace-building effort also comes in the form of what we now call Datu Paglas-Japan Cooperation which is symbolized by our exchange of ideas and opinion, by the regular visits of officers of the JCCM. Before the late Datu Toto Paglas died, Mr. Amano brought to my town JCCM outgoing President, Mr. Nakao, and his guests who during that visit had kindly given a cash donation to the Datu Ibrahim Paglas Memorial College, a kind donation that was used to build an additional classroom. The JCCM had also kindly donated a few laptops from a Rotary Chapter in Japan, the JICA is now in the process of approving the construction of a school building in one of the barangays of Datu Paglas, which could benefit up to 500 poor students.

Recently, this Cooperation had brought to the town of Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur, a livelihood opportunity through the production of banana fiber which was then exported to Toyo Fiber of Japan. The Nissei Delica of Tokyo had also for the past two years been working patiently on Soba trials. Mr. Nakao’s Nakashin Foods in Davao is deeply committed to do their CSR for poor Muslims, either through feeding program to poor and hungry, or livelihood opportunities. Mr. Amano and JCCM Vice-President Mr. Sumikawa and Mr. Miyake had been regular visitors to my town in order to further develop our cooperation agreements.

Ladies and gentlemen, I mentioned the above as illustration of relationship building, which serve as a foundation to establish confidence. In the office of the Honorable Datu Paglas town Mayor, is a glass replica of a Japanese head-gear, reportedly worn by great Japanese warriors during the old times. This replica has the caption FROM SAMURAI TO MUJAHIDEEN, FROM 1940’s UNTIL FOREVER. Our deeper meaning for Mujahideen is a WARRIORS WHO SERVES THE GREATER CAUSE, which is for the good of all. We were pleased to learn that the deeper meaning of SAMURAI is also SERVICE.

We therefore take the deeper meaning of that replica to be FROM JAPAN TO PAGLAS, FROM WARTIME UNTIL THE END OF TIME, meaning we continue to look forward to more cooperation in order to be of more service to humanity. That cooperation is meant not just during our time, of our generation, but more important for our succeeding generations, between my children and your children.

We look forward to saying YOKOSO, of welcoming more of you to Datu Paglas, and to the ARMM.

Thank you, and may have you have a pleasant evening. KUMBAWA, ARIGATO.