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AN INCLUSIVE atmosphere in business is necessary to maintain the gains of peace and continue the enabling environment for prosperity in Mindanao, according to Dr. Annette Pelkmans-Balaoing.

Balaoing, who is based at the University of the Philippines, cited the case of Unifrutti Tropical Philippines, a firm that invested in a 1,300-hectare banana plantation called La Frutera in Maguindanao province and their relationship with the community and the farmers operating there.

Unifrutti, she said, recognized the land rights of the people in Maguindanao and it employed former rebels or combatants to build trust and establish relationships.

“In the context of conflict and war, we need markets to be humane. We need markets to be inclusive. Investment usually expose you to higher risk, but in this sense, investment in the form of social capital lessens the risk in operating in a risky environment,” said Balaoing, a Senior Research Associate in the Partnership Resource Center and a co-convenor of the Chains-for-Change Partnership Center for Inclusiveness and Competitiveness.

Senen Bacani, chairman of Peace and Equity Foundation, and one of the co-founders of La Frutera, said the success of the plantation is due to the recognition that peace and development should always come together. “Unifrutti went there for profit, but we believed that to do that, we needed to take care of the people, community, and environment,” he said.

Bacani noted that cultural sensitivity matters in dealing with the social realities on the ground. “If people trust you, they will do what you requested them to do. We always wanted to work with community leaders in the area,” he said.

PEF is a partner in the EMIT C4C, a research program under the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies that collaborates with the Partnerships Resource Center of the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University). (With a report from the Mindanao Examiner)


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