BISMILLAH HIRRAHMAN HIRRAHIM
ASSALAMU ALAIKUM WARAHMATULLAHI TAALA WABARAKATUHU.
His Excellency Tan Sri Dato Seri Utama Dr .Rais Yatim,
Advisor to the Government of Malaysia on Socio Cultural Matters,
President of IIUM and Chairman of ICIFE International Advisory Council
President, Officials and Members of ICIFE, guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen,
Warmest salutations from the Philippines, and my region, Mindanao.
In the Almighty’s name and with His Guidance, this representation accepts with honored gratitude the trust conferred by the International Council of Islamic Finance Educators (ICIFE) as one of its distinguished members.
With much humility, this honor I accept, despite my own limitations and deficiency on matters of Islamic finance, having been a community worker for the last 2 decades of my life before becoming Member of Parliament. And it is exactly this community experience that drove me to appreciate, learn and work towards the strengthening and advancement of Islamic Banking and Finance in my country.
Being with the most marginalized and depressed communities, particularly in Muslim Mindanao, opened my eyes to the inequities courtesy ofour current socio-economic system, a system founded on a profit-driven framework. It becomes even more obvious for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where I am from, where people categorized as poor actually own hectares of land and have access to endless seas and all the richness therein. Why our people remain poor is beyond comprehension. It is beyond plain and simple common sense.
Years of community organizing, entrepreneurship education, livelihood assistance, yielded very few sustainable success stories. Being a conflict area, our lands are too undervalued or not up to the requirements necessary to access financing. Not many investors are willing to take the risk while some impose counterparts we can barely provide. Today, our people have no choice but are willing victims of microfinance groups that charge at least 4% interest per month.
Our long search for answers led us to a Malaysian model of Sharia-compliant microfinance. I was then Executive Director of the National Commissionon Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) when, our Director of Muslim Economic Affairs, BroAleemGuiapalintroduced me to Dr. Haji Zul, ICIFE Project Director who further introduced me to groups and individuals to whom I am deeply indebted to for leading mehere now.
When I found myself in the House of Representatives, the opportunity came to enact legislation towards the strengthening of Islamic Banking in the Philippines. It is not new to us, as we pride ourselves of having one of the earliest chartered Islamic Banks in the world, the Al-Amanah Islamic and Investment Bank which has started operation in 1973. We may not have as much pride on its development and current status, but we do find valuable lessons to take as we work for its rebirth.
House Bill 5989 seeks to strengthen the Al-Amanah Islamic and Investment Bank of the Philippines, with wider range of Sharia-compliant financing modalities, an increased authorized capital stock of 10 Billion pesos from its current 1 Billion pesos capitalization, and the removal of its exclusive monopoly over Islamic Banking to allow the establishment of other Islamic Banks in the country and authorize Sharia-compliant windows for conventional banks, covered by a national regulatory framework under our own Central Bank of the Philippines.
The approval of the said Bill is just one of the initiatives we started. The serious corresponding actions as we see this through led to the overwhelming convergence of different institutions, both public and private to support it. Please allow me to acknowledge even in her absence, AttyMaisaraDandamunLatiph, a woman who relentlessly pooled together the different government agencies to organize the Technical Working Group which did not only draft the Bill but is leading in its promotion and constituency building. The Technical Working Group is headed by no less than the Central Bank of the Philippines, Anak Mindanao, the Al-Amanah Islamic and Investment Bank, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, the Office of the Solicitor-General. Our recognition too to MsNataliya Milenko of World Bank, Mr. Salem Kuzem of Maybank and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Before coming to Kuala Lumpur, we received a Notice from the House Committee on Banks of our second and hopefully final deliberation before it is submitted to the Plenary, and we are also happy to inform you that the Senate version of the Bill has been filed, authored by Hon. Senator Bam Aquino.
In all our words and actions, we emphasize that Islamic Banking and Finance is for everyone and not exclusive to Muslims. It does, however contribute an added value in the Philippine context. As Muslims in a predominantly non-Muslim country, we strive to always bring forward the beauty of Islam. At a time when our faith is notoriously misunderstood, as its followers, we are self-appointed ambassadors. In the many instances that we see and hear the appreciation of people on Islamic Banking and Finance, we know, we have contributed to the dialogue, unity and peace among our people in particular and the Ummah in general.
Ladies and gentlemen, it took years for us to begin this journey. According to the Central Bank of the Philippines they started drafting a law for this purpose someyears ago. I, myself have been pondering, with much apprehension, whether or not to take this responsibility. In one meeting we asked ourselves, why are we doing this? And we were confronted with one clear answer: because no one else will do this for us. It is thus with much gratitude that in behalf of everyone in my countryworking for Islamic Banking and Finance, Muslims and non-Muslims, financially literate and not, I hereby declare our vote of thanks to His Excellency Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim, Chairman of ICIFE International Advisory Board, President, Officials and Members of International Council of Islamic Finance Educators (ICIFE) for our acceptance to be one of you and will go back home with the message, we may have to do this ourselves, but we are not alone, Insya Allah.