My Dear Fellow Officers and Staff-members from the First Holdings Group of Companies,Honored Guests and Friends,
Good evening and welcome to this, the Gala Concert that serves as the climax to our activities in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of First Philippine Holdings Corporation.
These past several days, I have been in Japan with a number of First Holdings executives as part of President Aquino’s business conference delegation in that country and also to visit our corporate friends and allies there, and to extend our belated sympathies for the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Northern Japan earlier this year. As a result, I missed “Pedring” and also almost missed this event due to the PAL strike. We were at the Narita airport on Wednesday morning without any PAL plane there. By chance of luck we were able to get a Cathay Pacific flight which took us to Hongkong and from Hongkong we took another Cathay Pacific flight to Manila arriving here at about 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon. I appreciate, however, that for many of you here, particularly those of you who are based in Visayas and Mindanao, it has not been easy to make the trip to Manila in order to join us for this gala concert. I thank you for your effort and perseverance, and I trust that tonight’s show and merriment will more than make up for the difficulties you’ve had to endure.
During the appreciation cocktails that we hosted last week for our corporate partners and friends, I spoke, not about the many stellar achievements of First Holdings and its companies during its first half century of existence, but rather, about the values and the principles by which we have conducted our business affairs. I recalled how our values and principles had first been established and articulated for us by my father, Eugenio Lopez, Sr., when he established the company, then called Meralco Securities Corporation, in June of 1961. In the process of building what was then the country’s largest conglomerate, my father taught 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 own turn at the helm of First Holdings, spanning twenty four years since my return to the company after the 1986 EDSA Revolution, has given me a chance to formulate more explicitly what we in First Holdings and in the wider 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 these 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.
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 your Chairman 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 closed my remarks last week by addressing to Piki, as a father to a son, and as an outgoing chairman to his successor, the challenges that I feel his generation will have to deliver on as they, in turn, take responsibility for the Lopez legacy. I would now like to repeat those same words, this time as a challenge to each and every one of you in your capacity as members of our corporate family.
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 Eugenio Lopez, Sr. was, and just as those who have come before you were.
Second: Remember our values and communicate them to every fellow 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. Those who have come before you have already undergone many such storms. You yourselves have already had some experience of political pressure and financial turmoil in the past few years, and you 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.
Are you with me on all of these? Do you accept this challenge to your generation? If your answer is Yes, make it a loud resounding YES !!!
Then may the next 50 years of First Philippine Holdings be as committed to public service and national development as the first fifty. And may the generations of First Holdings leaders and employees yet to come always keep the faith in our values.