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Assalamu Alaikum, Peace be With You, ang Kapayapaan ng Panginoong Diyos ay mapasa-inyo.

To the distinguished participants in this symbolic Business Forum, particularly our visiting dignitaries from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who are my dear brothers in faith, members of the Saudi Business Delegation led by Mr. Waleed Al-Swaidan, President of the Saudi-Philippines Business Council, and Engr. Khalid Mohammed Al-Otaibi, Assistant Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Council of Saudi Chambers. The same greetings goes to its local counterpart, the Philippines-Saudi Business Council, led by it Chair-person Ms. Ma. Luisa Romero. Same greetings to the officers and members of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce led by its Chairman-Emeritus, and its President Messrs Miguel Varela and Donald Dee respectively. And with your kind indulgence, I wish to greet in a personal manner His Excellency Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines Mohammed Ameen Wali who is an adopted member of the Paglas clan in Maguindanao and the Loong clan of Sulu, His Excellency Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bahnarim Guinomla who is an uncle of mine, and the Honorable Governor of the Province of Sulu Benjamin T. Loong who has been a long time dear friend and brother. And finally, to the other participants of this event, friends, ladies and gentlemen.

I wish to thank you, the organizers of this Business Forum, for your having given me this opportunity to share my own insights with you this morning. I am privileged enough to have visited the progressive Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, twice. First was in 1999 and then, last year when I went to Mekkah, on the occasion of the Hajj, then to Jeddah, to visit the cold storage and marketing facilities of my investors Abbar Zainy Cold Stores, and then to Riyadh, with the kind courtesies of HE Philippine Ambassador to KSA Bahnarim Guinomla.

In Riyadh, I was most privileged to be able to meet with Mr. Hussein Al-Athel, Secretary General of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce. I was also most privileged to have met Mr. Abdulrahman Al-Jeraisy, Chairman of the Al-Jeraisy Group of Companies and Chairman of the Federation of Saudi Chambers of Commerce. I had toured the Kingdom and Faisaliah Towers, indeed a pride to your beautiful city of Riyadh. That second trip, and those meetings had opened my eyes to the vast possibility of economic and trade cooperation between our two countries.

I had found out very quickly that indeed, there would be a big, diverse opportunity for cooperation between our 2 countries. In the areas of commerce, agriculture, engineering, social endeavors, and even cultural exchange.

Presently, bananas from Mindanao are already shipped to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Philippines, basically an agricultural and multi-lingual country, can be an effective supplier of a variety of products. One such product that is of particular abundance in the Philippines is coconut ( and maybe marketed either as nuts, or crude coconut oil or virgin coconut oil, or coco-nectar), We can also supply labor, as we have been doing, whether skilled manpower or technical and professional services.

Better yet, our colleagues from the Kingdom can use the Philippines, as their production base for some if not most, of their agricultural requirements. The possibilities are endless from the Philippine side, we just need to continue exploring them.

Based on my limited understanding about the Saudi situation, there is also a diversity of what you, my brothers in faith, may already supply to the Philippine side. Without pre-empting you, I leave it to you to brief us, although I had been impressed myself about what I saw at the Kingdom. For example, I had visited a confectionery factory in Jeddah, and its production and process are very impressive. Also, the cold storage facilities and marketing of my investors Abbar & Zainy, are among the most organized and modern in the world.

Another very ideal and quickly doable area of cooperation is our trade exchange on delicious DATES that we Filipino Muslims particularly, very much desire to have during the Holy Month of Ramadhan, God Permitting.

Yes, my dear brothers from the KSA, the door is wide open for active cooperation between our two countries, particularly or starting with, the economic exchange, thereby benefiting our two countries. We actually already have that existing cooperation, mainly in the areas of manpower supply, and the “one-way cooperation” by which kind-hearted Saudi citizens, Alhamdullilah & Allah Bless you for your kindness, you give money to your brothers in faith in the Philippines as donations for construction of Mosques and madrasahs and other civic and humanitarian intentions. We are forever grateful for that, but there must be more means of cooperation by which our relationship maybe anchored upon. We your brothers in faith in the Philippines are equipped by Allah Almighty (swt) with able bodies and minds, and while you are Blessed with oil, we are equally Blessed with fertile lands and abundant water. Yet we are unable to sell to you agricultural products, other than bananas, although there’s a lot more we should be able to supply to you. May this visit of yours unfold how we can expand that relationship.

To our most distinguished delegation from Saudi Arabia, I conveyed those earlier herein mentioned thoughts and simple wishes, in the spirit of our being brothers in faith sharing a common dream for a better life, not so much for us but more importantly for our children. I personally made them on that basis, with your kind indulgence and I plead it not be taken as improper.

Why am I mentioning this to you? perhaps I just wish to emphasize, at the risk of over-emphasizing, my personal desire and appeal, “once again, in the spirit of our brotherhood in faith”, that we do everything we can, even to the point of making extra-ordinary exceptions, just to deliver our respective goods to each others’ hands in a mutually advantageous manner.

Yes, the possibilities are unlimited in terms of positive impact on the exchange of cooperation between our two countries. One such positive impact is of course the economic development that will follow, and the contribution it makes to attainment of lasting peace. We, brothers in faith, all share the hurt or we protest whenever the world’s consciousness, carelessly label terroristic acts in a manner that identifies with Muslims or Islam. Most of them do it out of ignorance therefore we forgive them, and we ask Allah to Forgive them. But nevertheless, it is a fact that poverty and injustice are fertile breeding grounds for terrorism and criminality, and even rebellion. It is also proven, that when people have jobs, and rebels and “criminals” are no exception, they return to normal life and peace is attained. The story of my town is an illustration of that fact.

(A footnote: To my fellow Filipino participants in this momentous gathering, you may have noticed the seemingly one-sided manner by which I am addressing our Arabian counterparts. I ask for your kind indulgence, since we are both at the home front, we have all the time to continue talking about these matters, but my dear brothers from Saudi Arabia are leaving very soon and I just wanted to make sure I had taken brotherly advantage of their presence).

May this visit of our distinguished delegation from the KSA be just the beginning, Insha-Allah, God Permitting. May I also take this occasion to personally thank them, for taking the time to visit Mindanao in the next few days. And, may I also appeal to my Saudi brothers to please share this message when you return to the Glorious Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. May Allah swt Bless abundantly your trip to Mindanao, and back to your home. And may we meet again, very soon, Insha-Allah.

Wassalamu-Alaikum, may God the Almighty Bless us all. A very good day to everyone.