NEWS we published that Philippine Economic Zone Authority Director General Lilia de Lima announced her retirement Wednesday, a day before President Benigno Aquino 3rd stepped down and President Rody Duterte assumed office, saddened many who know that Ms. De Lima is a rare and true model of what a government official, agency manager and technocrat should be.
We had her for our roundtable guest some weeks ago (we also had her over at our office for a roundtable a year before) and we were once more impressed by her performance as head these past 21 years the PEZA performance. That performance is one of the reasons our country has been steadily enjoying gross domestic product growth for two decades and is now reputed to be the brightest economic star in Asia.
What is most impressive to us about PEZA, which has had Ms. De Lima as its director-general since it was established during the Ramos presidency, is that it has less than 1,000 employees—despite the fact that it has brought in foreign investments and promoted domestic investment in PEZA sites totaling P3.157 trillion. For the first four months of 2016 alone, approved investments attributable to PEZA has reached P48.76 billion, an almost 20-percent increase over the figures for the same period last year.
Ms. De Lima presents the personality of a no-nonsense and hard-working executive—though charmingly so. Since her appointment as PEZA’s chief, the agency has been accounting every year for some 90 percent to 98 percent of the total investments in the Philippines from abroad. PEZA has accomplished very well the tasks it was created for.
These investments in the PEZA sites have directly created up to 1.3 million jobs and indirectly 6.5 million more jobs. The zones have earned revenues in taxes and profits from exports totaling about $607 billion since the agency began.
In 1995 there were only 16 economic zones in which were located 331 registered companies. Now there are 343 PEZA economic zones—including not only export-product manufacturing zones but also information technology (IT) parks and centers as well as tourism (including medical tourism) centers and zones for agro-industrial enterprises and facilities. There are 3,756 registered companies in these PEZA zones.
Unlike most other government agencies, the PEZA offices are like those of foreign companies in the Philippines. And PEZA operates 24 hours every day of the week.
May more government offices in our country be like the PEZA under Ms. Lilia De Lima.