Work in gov’t with ‘absolute honesty and utmost service’ – Magsaysay Awardee Lilia de Lima

Lilia De Lima

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Work in gov’t with ‘absolute honesty and utmost service’ – Magsaysay Awardee Lilia de Lima
Lilia de Lima survived '4 presidents with different political persuasions and management styles' as director-general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority

The 6 recipients of the prestigious 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awards were officially recognized during their presentation ceremonies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Thursday, August 31.

Among the awardees is the Philippines’ Lilia de Lima, the first director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). She served the government agency for 21 years. 

Here is the full text of her speech, as provided by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.


Vice President of the Philippines Maria Leonor Robredo, former President Fidel V Ramos – sir, if you did not appoint me, I wouldn’t be here – trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, distinguished guests, members of the Ramon Magsaysay family, fellow awardees, ladies and gentlemen.

I thank the Lord for this significant milestone in my life. Thank you most sincerely, Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation, for recognizing my work at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority or PEZA. Truly, this is a blessing to be awarded for work I enjoyed doing. My 21 years at PEZA was a privilege as it was a commitment. It gave me the opportunity to serve my country and help generate employment for our people. Thanks to the investors, who trusted in our capability to ensure that their operations can be set up at the soonest time and at the least cost undertaken with the PEZA hallmark brand of service – “One-stop shop, non-stop shop, no red tape, and no corruption.”

It wasn’t all a walk in the park. We inherited an extremely bloated bureaucracy. Trimming the fat by 60% was a long, torturous, and emotionally-draining process. It was the most bruising experience in my public career. Everything was thrown at me, but we did not waver and we cleaned up. As we strengthened the organization, we also instituted sweeping structural and policy reforms to remain competitive and address the ever-changing investment climate. All these paid off. PEZA gradually transformed into clean and efficient organization with highly-motivated, hardworking professional individuals. And I hope, I hope, they will continue to be so. 

Our mantra from day one is absolute honesty and utmost service in all our dealings with our stakeholders. I am proud to have worked with my PEZAns, and with them I shared this award. I must likewise thank the investors – many of them I see here tonight. 

The question most often asked is how I survived 4 presidents of different political persuasions and management styles. My answer is simple: Do your job with integrity and professionalism, and the bottomline will show it. It’s the best credential you can have and the only endorsement you will need. 

But tonight, we honor the beloved president Ramon Magsaysay, who believed that a high and unwavering sense of morality should pervade all spears of governmental activity. I am reminded of his words of wisdom that remains as relevant today. And he said, and I quote, “I believe the president should set up the example of a big heart, an honest mind, sound instincts, the virtue of healthy and patience, and an abiding love for the common man. Guns alone are not the answer. We must provide hope for young peoples, for better housing, clothing, and food. And if we do, the radicals will wither away.” 

Ramon Magsaysay has given us that heartbeat for humanity. What we have all been awarded for is in rhythm with the pulse that gleans towards what is right, what is just, what is good, and what is free to make ours a better world. This singular award, its salience and substance, and the precious memory it stands for, I shall forever treasure.

Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay! –

Read the speeches of other 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awards recipients:


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