LET US MAKE THE INVESTORS FEEL AT HOMEBy: Datu Ibrahim “Toto” Pendatun Paglas III | 5th National Palm Oil Congress Theme: “Palm Oil: Gearing Towards New Perspective”
10 August 2007, 6:30p.m. | Royal Mandaya Hotel, Davao City | PRINT THIS ARTICLE
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, Ang Kalinaw sa Ginoo, sa Apo Magbabaya maanaa kanatong tanan. 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 Mindanao, with its favorable weather condition and other agricultural attributes and mass of would-be Farm workers. 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. You had seen the video about my town’s story, Alhamdullilah, Praise God Almighty. 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 Mindanao 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, of your towns too and the people there. Despite the above mentioned natural blessings, what else do we need to do, in order that nature’s blessed Mindanao may also have a fair share of progress that a Palm Oil industry may surely bring. (there’s reportedly more than 5 million hectares in Malaysia, 3 million plus hectares in Indonesia, and around 600, 000 hectares “late-comer” Papua New Guinea (In contrast, by my own understanding, we have less than 50, 000 hectares in the Philippines, mostly in Mindanao). As my town’s story has shown, Corporate Investing is one such major 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. 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”. My elders, and in particular my dear late uncle Hashim Salamat, former Chairman of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front who returned to our Creator 3 years ago, had the following three things to say which I then adopted as Guiding Principles, when I proposed to them my “business plan”, which basically was my decision to let investments come in:
- protect the environment at any cost because this is all we have for the next generation,
- do not abuse the workers, protect their rights and look after their welfare and safety, and
- provide education for the children.