Presence of Foreign InvestmentsBy: Edgar L. Bullecer, Senior Vice President, Chiquita-Unifrutti Philippines
Mindanao-Saudi Arabia Business Encounter
02 March 2005 | Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City PRINT THIS ARTICLE
Shalom, Assalamu Alaikum, Peace of God Be Upon Humanity….. Good afternoon to everyone. First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks to IFC for its having invited me to speak before you today. Everyday, we see a lot of bad news on television, read discouraging news in the papers. Not many people have the chance to learn about the good news, thus as a consequence fail to take part in creating the good news. I am very honored to represent the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines, and share with you some good news about Mindanao as opposed to the usual news about bombings, kidnapping, and the guerilla war. You have seen my story in the video. It is not an extraordinary story. But, it changed the lives of thousands of people. It also made our shareholders get their money’s worth as we become one of the most profitable companies in the industry in the Philippines. When I prepared for this most welcome engagement, I did some reading about IFC and the work that you do. What caught my interest was your mission statement that says ---IFC promotes sustainable private sector investment in developing countries to help reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. I told myself… why did I not know 8 years ago that such organization exists? This kind of organization is exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to change the lives of people, I have a business plan, I have some resources but practically no one understood what I was up to. The banks would not lend me money even if I can put up the necessary collateral because properties in Muslim provinces were and still generally are not, accepted as collateral. The risk is too high, I was told by the bank official. The rest is of course is history. By the Grace of the Almighty and I believe its time has come, I was lucky to find investors who took that bold step and leap of faith (those who thought otherwise, say “crazy enough”) to risk their money and their talents in the war-zone town of Datu Paglas. At this point in time, I take this opportunity to propose that IFC be involved some more in the sustainable economic development of the Philippine Muslim Region as a way to lasting peace, not just in the Philippines, but by way of helping combat terrorism in the Asia Pacific Region. You are discussing Corporate Social Responsibility here. And although I don’t need to convince you to believe that there is clear business case to embrace the principles of sustainable development, I want to tell you that I knew nothing about it when we started developing the business in 1996. I just did what my elders, or should I say my stakeholders, asked me to do. 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 2 years ago, had three things to say which I then adopted as Guiding Principles, when I proposed to them my business plan:
- 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 last
- provide education for the children.