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Fellow stakeholders to countryside development through sustainable agricultural production, I convey to all of you the universal greetings of peace, Assalamu Alaikum, Shalom, Peace of God Be Upon everyone, Ang Kapayapaan ng Panginoong Diyos ay mapasaatin lahat, Ang Kalinaw sa Ginoog Diyos nga Makagagahom maanaa kanatong tanan...

We are all gathered here, believing that we have a major role to play, to help make this world a better place for our children, a world of peace, love, and harmony… a world that believes in The One and Only Creator, called in the most Majestic Names by the respective different languages on earth: GOD or ALMIGHTY or DIVINE PROVIDENCE in English, ALLAH in Arabic, DIYOS or PANGINOON or GINOO or BATHALA or POONG MAYKAPAL to native Philippine dialects, TUHAN to the Malays (Indonesia/Malaysia), DIO to the Italians, GOTT to the Germans, APO MAGBABAYA to the Highlanders of Mindanao, YAHWEH or JEHOVAH to the Jews, to mention some.

I am very much privileged to respond to the invitation that I be a Resource Speaker on the subject of how LGU’s can be a partner to agricultural development. After all, what is now known as the Datu Paglas Story is basically about the transformation of my former war-zone town in the not so distant past into its being a zone of lasting peace through sustainable economic development at present. Alhamdullilah, Praise be to God Almighty, this had happened because of the initiative of my town, during my term as a mayor in late 1980’s, to provide the needed governance in order that investors may come in. I wish to emphasize that no matter how we invite investors to bring in their resources, both money and management capitals, they will always need first the satisfaction of certain basic criteria, and the LGU component is always a vital factor.

For those who are not so familiar with the story of my town, as it relates to my subject in this convention, please let me bring you to a virtual journey to my town’s history through the following video presentation. . .

( 10-minute video showing)

The theme of this convention, Mindanao Agribusiness for the Philippines and the World Market should give us the opportunity to squarely face the realities of our country’s agribusiness industry which of course includes the marine sector. True, the opportunity of an expanding market, particularly taking into account the demands of China, is a challenge. An even bigger challenge though, is the reality that our costs of production is high, our water resources including rainfall are no longer as reliable as they used to be primarily because our forests are already practically gone, our soils have become dependent on inputs because their natural fertility and richness have been greatly diminished if not completely gone. The adverse effect of these are already felt in the banana sector which is where I belong, and I am sure this same is true with the other agri sectors of our country.

The above factors aside though, the LGU must play a very important role, particularly that of providing the right atmosphere for agricultural productivity to be attained. Vital to it, is the need for basic infrastructure like farm to market roads, irrigation water source, and the like. If they are not yet existing, government funds maybe difficult to come by because these are limited. And if these infrastructure are already present, still the LGU as a vital component has to play an active role.

As you had seen in the video, my town’s constraint was the peace and order problem. It was only after the said problem was addressed, that the investors were able to come in. Indeed, as local government units, whether at the regional, provincial, municipal, and even at the barangay levels, there is no limit to the initiatives we can take, within the bounds of our autonomy under the local government code, in order that the right atmosphere for investment maybe provided.

That particular role we play maybe in the form of our actively facilitating the public information campaign about a particular project or program that is proposed to us in order that this is appreciated by the different stakeholders in our localities, primarily the farmers or fishermen directly concerned. That particular LGU role may also be in the form of zoning the crop planting area, helping ensure the availability, or at least the true assessment of the infrastructure capability of our locality, or ascertaining what incentives maybe provided within our capability as an LGU.

My very dear friends, whichever location we all maybe, we all have our respective abundant, God-Given Blessings. I sincerely believe that even or particularly if one is an LGU, we have to be ENTREPRENEURS, whether we be farmers, civil servants, political leaders, tribal datus, small businessmen, or even as an ordinary member of society. 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.

How do we innovate? We all know that the bounties of nature and our warm bodies are God-Given resources. We simply have to harness them. It starts with each one of us, individually, right at our homes or backyards, or farms. It also starts with us as LGU’s but really more so as individual members of the LGU, to make our lands productive, whether it is in the form of a little garden to provide vegetables that would nourish our families, and better yet nourish other people when we are able to sell this to market. I humbly believe that it is only when we are able to efficiently produce within our means and capabilities, that specialized strategies like food and agriculture centers, business parks, post harvest and cold chain technologies, up-to-date market information systems, and the like, can have full significance.

So much has been told about the “Datu Paglas Story”. The investors came only after they had seen that the LGU of the town of Datu Paglas had adopted an entrepreneurial attitude, of rallying behind the BAWAL ANG TAMAD battlecry. Every LGU should have its own story of transformation, of being productive. I guess in the end, it is a matter of attitude, of rethinking our approach to productivity. I wish each one of us our respective successes. And in everything we do, reflecting on our recent observance of Earth Day, I hasten to add that we have to always preserve or sustain the environment, not forgetting the saying of the Wise Men, that “we did not simply inherit this world from our parents, we also borrowed it from our children…”

May this little sharing from your humble Muslim brother have even a little impact in your mind and in you heart. Thank you once again and wassalamu-alaikum, God Bless all of us.