Lilia de Lima, who brought in P3 trillion in investments to the Philippines as director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) for 21 years, is one of this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
De Lima, 76, was cited for “single-mindedly pursuing a program of reform” by halving the bloated 1,000-person bureaucracy she had inherited from a “system of political patronage.”
“During her term, PEZA’s accomplishments have been nothing short of spectacular. The number of PEZA ecozones increased by 2,000%, from the initial 16 she inherited to 343 by 2016; the number of registered enterprises rose from 331 to 3,756; investments reached P 3 trillion; and ecozone exports totaled $629 billion,” the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said on Thursday.
De Lima, raised in a family of public servants in Iriga City, Camarines Sur, finished law at Manuel L. Quezon University in 1965 after receiving an associate in arts degree from Centro Escolar University.
She was a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention representing Camarines Sur. After practicing law, de Lima joined the government, serving the Department of Trade and Industry in various capacities until her appointment as the first PEZA chief in 1995.
De Lima retired in 2016 and now serves as director in the boards of a number of nonprofits and corporations.
Also to be cited is the 50-year-old Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), for “its bold, collective contributions in shaping the theater arts as a force for social change, its impassioned, unwavering work in empowering communities in the Philippines, and the shining example it has set as one of the leading organizations of its kind in Asia.”
Other awardees this year are Yoshiaki Ishizawa of Japan, for helping restore Cambodia’s Angkor Wat; Abdon Nababan of Indonesia, for advocating the rights of indigenous peoples; Ghetsie Shanmugam for her psychosocial work for adults and children displaced by war in Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces; and Tony Tay of Singapore, for organizing “Willing Hearts,” a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that distributes hot, packed meals daily to the needy.
The six awardees for 2017 will join 318 Magsaysay laureates since 1958, and will receive a certificate, a medallion and a cash prize, said foundation president Carmencita Abella. The awarding ceremonies will be on August 31 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.