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Asalam…… Good morning everyone.

First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks for your taking interest in this session.

Everyday, we see a lot of bad news on television, read discouraging news in the papers. Not many people take interest in learning about the good news much more taking part in creating the good news. I am very honored to represent the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and my Foundation, the Philippine Business for Social Progress.

If I have my way, I would want to bring all of you to Mindanao so that you will see that there are some good things that are happening in the heart land of Mindanao. But I know that is impossible so I hope the video helped.

Now, let me outline to you some key points I have learned as I went through in creating the story you have witnessed.

First, I learned that a clear sense of vision and mission helps clarify and purify intentions. Modesty aside, I was not born poor, but by some destined events in my younger days, I lived with the “subjects” of my father. Consequently, I have seen the glaring divide that separated the Muslim nobilities from the common Muslim families. But I protested the norms where leadership of the ruling class put their interest over the most basic concerns of those in poverty. As my father’s successor --- I vowed to use the influence of my family to make a difference in our community because I was tired of seeing the same vicious cycle of violence. I wanted to try something new because the traditional Muslim way of leading our people was not working, it worked for the elite Muslim families and the politicians but it never worked for the people.

Second, I learned that in fulfilling my mission to BRIDGE the economic, social and political divide among the tri-peoples in the Philippines, I knew I had to change the rules of the game.

  • When the convention dictates that the Datus – or members of the royal families --- are the only people who can make sound decision for the people, I encourage dialogue and consensus among the local folks. By doing so, we shared the accountability to make things work for all of us.
  • Muslim culture is basically very exclusive. I challenged that by bringing everyone’s concern on the table … the government, the military, the religious leaders, the rebels and even the lawless element because I believe that what each of what its groups says is of great value.
  • We often had difficulty welcoming new ideas and new ways. We didn’t want outsiders in our territory but again, this system then did not work for us. Therefore, I invited NGO’s and the Academe to work with us so that we can learn how to invest in our future through trainings, skills building, values formation and education. We built partnerships with as many groups as possible to hasten the progress we deserve.

I was brought up in a culture where guns and goons defined man’s status in the society. I challenged that convention. At first I was not comfortable because it wasn’t the normal thing to go around without my bodyguards. But I put an end to that fashion because the old ways we’re not working for others and for me either. My personal campaign took a toll on me. I lost my two younger brothers, victim of violence, before I could demonstrate to the rest that we don’t need the guns but others are relentless.

Today, we are starting to reap the fruits of our sacrifices by way of infusing at least U.S.$400,000 to the local economy in the form of salary versus almost nothing in the past --- we are able to change the picture of Paglas town from war zone to economic zone.

For me, the challenge is always HOW TO SUSTAIN THE GAINS. And my simple and honest response to this is to continue to LISTEN to what the people have to say --- and LEARN from WISDOM of their stories --- as they gave me great inspiration, not only to do this better as a Chief Executive Officer but as a REAL MUSLIM LEADER.

I am very pleased to tell you that because we, the Muslims in Mindanao we’re able to prove our worth as an employee, a worker, and a professional … we earned the trust of our foreign investors, which includes Chiquita Brands International. Last month, we signed an additional investment U.S.$50 Million to expand our operation to 2,300 more hectares in the Philippine Muslim Region. This, is in the province of Lanao del Sur which just like Paglas town years ago has been in the headlines because of the arm conflict between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This new investment and development means employing at least 3,000 more people and I hope the rebels will take this opportunity to be the mainstream work force.

As is being experienced now in Datu Paglas, people who campaigns, whether they are criminals or rebels, generally deserve for a normal, productive, and peaceful life with their families when given the opportunity. My fellow Muslims in Mindanao are also gradually opening up to the world outside of their limited exposure in backward villages. They now welcome investors and developmental initiatives of various groups like those of the United Nations and the Unites States Agency for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, to name some. An illustration of this is the arms to farms program of the U.S. government for the island of Mindanao, better appreciated by watching its video that I have on hand, from the copies of which I am distributing today.

In closing, I must say that companies, big or small, have clear and obvious commercial interest as well as moral imperatives to help build a prosperous and peaceful society. As we always say in PBSP --- our greatest aspiration is to see that the one true purpose of business IS TO MAKE LFE GOOD FOR EVERYONE.