Thank you all for coming tonight — this night that we have chosen to mark the first half- century of First Philippine Holdings Corporation. This night is an opportunity to celebrate. But it also gives us a chance to reflect on the past fifty years — as well as the next fifty — about the past, present, and future.DEAR FRIENDS: Thank you all for coming tonight — this night that we have chosen to mark the first half- century of First Philippine Holdings Corporation. This night is an opportunity to celebrate. But it also gives us a chance to reflect on the past fifty years — as well as the next fifty — about the past, present, and future.
But rather than list the achievements and events of those fifty years, I would prefer to spend a few minutes talking about that which binds our past, present, and future together. Tonight is a night to focus not on our achievements, but our values — not on profits, but our principles.
Our values and principles were set for us long ago, by my father. Back in June of 1961, Eugenio Lopez Sr. and his colleagues established Meralco Securities Corporation — MSC, or what we now call First Philippine Holdings. My father was a nationalist who put his money where his mouth was; he was a pioneer who led MSC to operate the biggest power company in the country, Meralco, and to establish ground-breaking ventures in pipelines, manufacturing, construction, computer services,banking, and much more. But aside from the MSC group of companies, my father had also set up, with the help of my brother Geny the largest radio-television and cable network in ABS-CBN, which today reaches Filipinos all over the globe through the Filipino Channel.
In the process of building what was then the country’s largest conglomerate, my father taught us his children and his employees that in the Lopez Group, our primary reason for being is to serve the Filipino people. He called it “eternal allegiance of service.” He taught us to be always mindful of our obligations to present and future generations of Filipinos.
My father passed away in exile more than 36 years ago, but not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about him. I was around to witness the birth of First Holdings 50 years ago in June of 1961; I joined it five years later as its head of economic research and business development. And it was my privilege to follow in my father’s footsteps and lead First Holdings as CEO for nearly half of its life, from 1986 to 2010. The hardest struggles, the tensest moments, and the sweetest victories of my entire career have all happened here, at First Holdings.
We put up the country’s first and biggest natural gas-fired power plants with 1,500 MW in power, acquired the world’s second largest geothermal company and the country’s largest hydroelectric plant in Pantabangan Masiway in Nueva Ecija,through bidding from the Philippine government, and thus become a major force in Philippine power generation. We have notched many notable achievements in electrical and solar manufacturing, built the best tollroad in the country – the North Luzon Expressway – established the Rockwell mini-city in Makati, developed the huge 300 hectares industrial park in Batangas, and built the only black and white oil pipelines in the country to go from Batangas to Manila.
These years at the helm also gave me a chance to formulate more explicitly what we in First Holdings and the Lopez Group as a whole believe in. My father was a man of few words, and often his employees had to infer what he thought and believed from his actions. In the 21st century, however, companies that aim to be “built to last” need to be much more explicit and programmatic about inculcating their core values and core ideology in their employees. Last year we declared that our core values are: a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit, business excellence, unity, nationalism, social justice, integrity, and concern for employee welfare and wellness. During my 24 years at the helm, my management team and I have done our level best to live up to the distinctive Lopez values.
When we talk about the Lopez philosophy in business, it is essentially the concept of stewardship that is involved. In other words, we are not really owners but just stewards of our companies and we are here in this life to see how we can improve on these companies so that we can hand them down to the next generation in a much better shape than when we found them.
Only five weeks after MSC was born in 1961, a second son was born to myself and my wife Connie. So he too turns 50 this year. In June of last year, at the age of 80, I retired as chairman and CEO of First Holdings and took the title of chairman emeritus, and I had the pleasure of turning this company over to this son, Federico Daniel Rufino Lopez—or as we call him, Piki.
The Lopez legacy handed down to us from my father leaves responsibilities and challenges to each generation. Just as I and my generation have done our best to live up to the legacy, I know that Piki and his fellow leaders will carry on in the same tradition. And I hope that each generation in turn will believe in these values with the same zeal and passion, and pass them on in the decades and centuries to come.
I hope that you all will forgive me if for the next few minutes, I will address my remarks to Piki himself. While I will be speaking as a father to a son, let me make clear that my words are also about one generation speaking to the next, passing the torch of leadership to all who will come after us.
Piki: These are my challenges to you and your generation of First Holdings leaders.
First: Make EDC the largest geothermal power producer in the world. Take the First Holdings EDC standard and plant it overseas. Make the international business community know that the Filipino manager and the Filipino engineer are as good as the best in the world. You don’t have too far to go. EDC is already the 2nd largest geothermal producer in the world. Show the world that we here are pioneers and nationalists and exemplars of business excellence, just as your grandfather was.
Second: Remember our values and communicate them to every employee. Tell them that our primary reason for being is service to the Filipino people. It is these values that will be their compass in the years to come, as they face challenges that you and I could never anticipate. Assets come and go, industries rise and fall—our values and principles remain.
Third: Guard and preserve the environment everywhere that First Philippine Holdings does business. Already the company owns the cleanest power portfolio in the country, and is also replanting thousands of hectares of forests. But we must do more. This is in keeping with the spirit of stewardship that is enshrined in our Lopez Credo.
Fourth: Our standing up for principles will sometimes mean that we must take risky positions—sometimes against governments that are not committed to integrity or social justice. Your grandfather, your uncles and I have already undergone many such storms. You yourself have already had some experience of political pressure and financial turmoil in the past few years, and you and your team came through with flying colors. It would be nice to say that all these kinds of troubles are behind us. But it would probably not be true. Somehow, at some point, First Holdings will have to take a stand again. And when that time comes, I expect you and this company will remain undaunted and unbowed.
Fifth and last: This one is just three simple words: Make us proud.
May the next 50 years of First Philippine Holdings be as committed to public service and national development as the first fifty. May the generations of First Holdings leaders yet to come always keep the faith in our values.