Fellow Employees and Staff-Members of the Lopez Group, Members of the Lopez Family, good afternoon. I am glad to see all of you here this afternoon as one big family.
Our great national hero once made an observation that is oozing with truth that goes beyond the ages. Jose Rizal said: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.” Loosely translated, he is saying that a people with no sense of history have no future. A proper appreciation of history gives a people faith in its future. And once people have faith, attitude and behavior change happens that will secure that bright future.
What applies to a nation applies as well to any organization, including a business conglomerate such as ours. Knowledge of history allows a people to find in the glories of the past the inspiration so they can believe in themselves and go on to meet the challenges that will make them a great people. It is the same thing in a business enterprise like the Lopez Group. We take a break today from our normal business routines to precisely review our past.
I cannot think of a business group in this country with a past as storied and as glorious as the Lopez Group. I know because I spent the dark days of martial law playing the role of a family historian. I was able to trace the roots of the Lopez family and its enterprises back to over 200 years. And unlike some other business groups who also make historical claims, the history of the Lopez enterprises tell us not just how they made their businesses thrive but more important, how they rendered public service as well. My own grandfather Benito Lopez was assassinated while he was serving public office as Governor of Iloilo in 1908; while his father before him, the first Kapitan Eugenio Lopez, was Mayor of Jaro who established the first public school for the poor people of his town. And he also went all out against the social evil of debt slavery, which kept servants and workers working for masters for free in payment of some debt incurred generations ago by the parents and grandparents of these workers.
The roots of the modern day Lopez Group started 82 years ago this month when my father, Eugenio H. Lopez Sr and his brother, the former Vice President Fernando Lopez founded E and F Enterprises. It was a business enterprise that sought to invest in ventures that not only made money but also helped develop communities and render vital services our people needed.
I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity to join all of you here today. Our businesses have expanded to the point where it is not often that we have a chance to all get together in one place. Well, as you must already have heard through our various channels of communication, I stepped down as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of our major holding companies last June 12, on the 82nd anniversary of the formation of the initial Lopez company by my father, Eugenio Sr., and his brother, Fernando, on June 12, 1928. Having reached the age of eighty and my third childhood, I thought that it was good time to turn the stewardship of the business over to worthy younger successors. As Chairman Emeritus, I shall still be active on the sidelines, but the focus of my attention will be towards other passions of mine, such as our corporate Credo, corporate social responsibility and business excellence.
Those who work closely with me are familiar with my preoccupation over longevity, or with the factors that enable companies to endure, flourish and prosper for centuries. I want the Lopez businesses to become such companies. Unfortunately, there are very few companies that survive over one hundred years. We are lucky to have reached 82, which means we just have 18 more years to go to reach our first century celebration. But I believe that we must aim much higher than just one century as a goal. Four (4) centuries would be better. Why 4 centuries? Let me explain.
A few months ago the President of Sumitomo Corporation, Mr. Susumu Kato, our partner in a big industrial park business in Batangas came to Manila for a visit and I entertained his group for lunch in our board room. In the course of our conversation, I asked Mr. Kato what is Sumitomo’s secret of longevity since his company is over 400 years old and is still going strong. Mr. Kato then pulled out his wallet and took out a card on which was printed the Sumitomo Credo. I was told that every Sumitomo employee carries it around not just in his wallet but more importantly, in his heart. They live by the Credo in all facets of corporate life wherever they may be in the world.
I thought about that for a while and realized that we too have such a Credo but we have not taken time to make it known to our employees and use it to guide our everyday business. What better time to launch it internally than now as I turn over reins of the Lopez Group to my younger brother Manolo, who now heads Lopez Holdings, the former Benpres Holdings Corporation. Helping him out are my nephew Gabby, who has ably steered the broadcast and communications group and my son Piki, who will now head the power group and First Holdings, and my sister Presy who is chairperson of Lopez, Inc, our family holding company.
Now that I have more time on my hands as I have turned over leadership of the Lopez Group to the younger generation, I will personally reach out to all of you and talk to you about this Lopez Group Credo. I believe that in doing so, we will be better able to meet the challenges of the future because we have a strong philosophy that is the basis of everything we do.
Cascading our Credo across the Lopez Group will also bring us back to our roots, the reasons my father and uncle founded it. By disseminating the Credo group-wide we hope to increase pride in belonging to the Lopez Group. The way forward is building on our strengths. After all, the way forward entails patiently inculcating our values so that every member of the group chooses the time-tested paths of business excellence, good governance and social responsibility that lead to corporate relevance and sustained success. With these, we shall all be able to serve our country and our fellow citizens with honesty, justice and accountability.
For those of you who have your Lopez Credo, I would like you to stand up and take it out and we shall all read the Credo together:
WE, as employees of the Lopez Group of Companies, believe that our primary reason for being is to serve the Filipino people. Thus we shall always conduct ourselves in a manner that is mindful of the long-term mutual benefit of the Lopez Group and the various publics we serve. We will be responsible stewards of all our resources, and conscious of our obligation to present and future generations.
Since 1928, and in the years and generations to follow, our commitment to the distinctive Lopez values will not change as we remain committed to serve our stakeholders.
In our service to the Filipino people, we will be guided by the following distinct Lopez Values – a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit, business excellence, unity, nationalism, social justice, integrity, concern for employee welfare and wellness. We know from generations of experience that it is by living according to these values that a company can be built to last.
End of Credo. Thank you.
We want to bring back the days when belonging to the Lopez Group is a matter of pride and honor. And because there is pride, there will also be satisfaction and ultimately engagement that brings about greater productivity, loyalty and consistent quality service among all the employees Group-wide.
One of the most important core values I want to instill in the Lopez Group is a sense of unity. The best illustration of this is the Lopez Family coat of arms which features a bundle of sugar cane stalks, bound together to form a single, unyielding whole, one that will bend but never break, provided it stays as one.
Unity has always been at the center of the Lopez Family story, and the most vivid example of this was the partnership between my father and his brother, the founders of our business. My father, Eugenio Sr., and his brother, Fernando, had a fraternal relationship for the ages. As both were orphaned at a very young age, seven and five, when their father was assassinated and both were left in the care of an uncle and aunt who brought them up like their own children. My father took care of all business affairs, but the benefits from those businesses were split fifty-fifty. His brother, Fernando, attended to political matters and served as Vice President of the Republic, for those of you who were born after the seventies and are not familiar with him. Theirs was a relationship based on affection and trust, and they brought new meaning to the term hating kapatid. As we grew up, we were constantly reminded that family unity should be treasured above all else. And so, we have always moved as one. When the dictator took control of our businesses, we resigned together. When martial law ended, we returned together, to rebuild the business. Today, we remain together, united, oblivious to those who would try to sow rancor and disunity among us.
Our businesses may encompass various industries not the least related to each other. But when one side of the Group is hurting, like the human body, so will the other parts feel it. If the power side of the business is under attack, the media and telecoms side are affected as well. We are not seen in the eyes of the public as separate companies but part of the Lopez Group. It makes sense for us to think of ourselves as part of one Group as well.
There are also other operational benefits for enhancing unity by a universal appreciation of the values in the Lopez Credo. It will be easier for our companies to attract top talent. It also clarifies right conduct amongst employees while giving everyone a sense of belonging to a larger corporate community. Investors may also feel a greater sense of stability. In any case, whether we like it or not, banks and financial institutions already think of us as one group… including when they determine single borrower’s limits.
I realize what we are about to undertake is not an easy task. It would not be easy to propose unity through a set of shared values and code of conduct to some 14,000 employees in 22 different corporate identities, spread across the Philippines. But the concept is not unfamiliar to all of us because that is what being kapamilya is all about. Whenever ABS-CBN talks of being kapamilya, it is not an empty advertising claim. In a sense, what we now seek to accomplish is to give more meaning to the Kapamilya concept.
Another Basic Value in our Credo is our Pioneering Entrepreneurial Spirit.
If there is one thing that has characterized the Lopez way of doing business, it is that we have never been afraid to be the first in trying to do something that we think is valuable to the society that we serve. Again, my father set the example that we have all tried to emulate. He established El Tiempo the first crusading newspaper in Iloilo in 1928, at a time when, still under the yoke of colonial masters, Filipinos were not expected to be opinion makers. He went after a politician, Iloilo Governor Mariano Arroyo, who was using moneys corruptly obtained from turning a blind eye to illegal Jueteng in order to promote his political career. That politician was removed from office by the American authorities and by the way, he happens to be related to a soon-to-be ex first gentleman.
My father also pioneered the first airline not only in the Philippines but in Asia in 1932, called INAEC for Iloilo, Negros Air Express which flew between Iloilo and Manila, Bacolod, Cebu, Davao & Zambonga but when he resumed the airline business after World War II, he eventually sold out to Philippine Air Lines when it was clear that there could only be one viable airline for our fledgling market. His biggest and most daring feat was to organize a group of investors to take over Meralco from its American owners at a time when the business community generally held that Filipinos were not good enough to manage the country’s largest companies. But more than that, he then managed Meralco to greater heights than the Americans ever did or could by adding power generation to its business and bringing down consumer rates to their lowest levels in Asia. Among the subsidiary businesses that grew out of Meralco were the first commercial oil pipeline system in the country, the first electric transformer manufacturing plant and a lube oil basestock refinery. My father was also the county’s first tri-media pioneer as he bought into, then quickly rose to becoming #1 in both radio and television, in addition to newspapers. If the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network is the biggest in the country today, it is due to the combined leadership of my father, my brother Geny and his son Gabby who heads it today.
Today, this tradition of venturing into what no other Filipinos have done, or to where no other private sector Filipino companies have continues, in the businesses that we start or invest in, and even in the projects that we undertake as part of our corporate social program. Malampaya natural gas fired power generation, geothermal energy, solar power manufacturing and cable television are more recent examples of areas where we have pioneered.
But Probable the Most Important Core Value in our Credo is Concern for Our Employees Welfare and Wellness. If our Lopez businesses are where they are today, it is all due to your collective efforts.
My father took pride in knowing that in his companies were the employers of choice in the country, where the best and the brightest wanted to work, and where no reasonable expense was spared in attending to the needs of employees and their families. Meralco had the first hospital built purposely to serve the company’s employees and family members. It also had the first fully equipped employee sports recreation center. Of course, to whom much is offered, much is also expected. My father expected his employees to be the best and hardest workers in the country, tireless in their dedication to offer their customers the best and friendliest service possible. He also expected them to be totally honest in their dealings and in their conduct. There was, then, zero tolerance for any dishonesty or lapse of integrity in the Lopez companies, just as there is zero tolerance today for such sins.
This tradition is, today, carried through in the lifelong wellness programs that we conduct for our staff-members and in the facilities that we create for their continuous health learning and development, facilities like the Eugenio Lopez Development Center and the MMLDC, both in Antipolo. Even the Asian Eye Institute was established, in part, to ensure that all of us, with me at the head of the line, would always have access to the kind of world-class eye care that used to be available only in specialized centers like Harvard in Boston.
We continue to maintain that you, our employees, are our most valuable and important asset. We enjoy no greater goodwill than the loyalty and faith that you accord us. In turn, we commit to you our very best effort to provide you a working environment, compensation and benefits that, taken as a whole, should be second to none in the country, but in keeping with the performance generated by our businesses.
In sum, the values in the Lopez Credo are nothing more than what we are already doing now in the areas of business excellence and corporate social responsibility.
In the next few weeks, we are gathering all our key executives to thresh out how the values in the Lopez credo apply to their companies. I expect those in leadership positions in the Lopez companies to sufficiently embody the credo for their followers to be inspired.
Cascading workshops will then happen at the corporate level where the managers and employees of the different companies will have the chance to express their ideas on how best to practice the values of the Credo in their daily work. In so doing, I am hopeful that in time these core values of the Group will be held in common by everyone in any Lopez company so that each one will stand out in the community as one among the best.
For now, I want you all to enjoy the re-staging of Undaunted. This is the story of your company. This is your heritage as much as it is ours. We hope you will be inspired by this revisiting of history so that, as Rizal would have concluded, you will not only know where you are going but more importantly, that you will have a future in the Lopez Group.
Thank you and good evening.