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Billion-$ ‘General’

SHE was director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, but the locators who adored her for her exceptional managerial abilities called her “General” (as did FVR, who first put her there). Now, 21 years after serving FVR and his successors up to PNoy, Lilia de Lima just wants to tend her garden and relax in her pretty little cottage in Laguna, filling the hours painting, what else but, flowers.

General Lilia announced her resignation to her staff one day before Digong took his oath as president – what a pity, he won’t be visiting her zones and parks to marvel at their effectiveness. No red tape, only red carpet. One-stop shop. Nonstop shop 24/7. She would’ve been the perfect fit for this President’s war against corruption.

I used to address Lilia as “mon president” (French accent) but of course she thought I was just teasing, which I was not. Her position may not be as “major” as a cabinet rank, but with her out-of-the-box thinking, no-nonsense strategizing, dedication, and leadership by example, honesty and integrity being its hallmarks, the PEZA bosslady had no equal. In addition, she had the respect of her fastidious international clients.

Midway through a previous administration when a rumor went around that Lilia was about to be replaced, a stronger rumor went around to defeat that first rumor: A bunch of soon-to-be-unhappy locators would pull out of PEZA and it would be the end, theirs and PEZA’s. (Figures compiled by reporter Bernie Cajiles-Magkilat show that during Lilia’s watch PEZA had 343 economic zones, hosted 3,756 export-oriented companies producing 70 percent of total PH exports, and employed 1.2 million workers. She ended her tenure with a king’s super ransom of $607 billion in exports from 1994-2015.)

Should we worry who will step into her size-7 shoes (medium heels)? In case the successor turns out to be a gentleman, should he fret over the metaphor of the shoes? Come on, be a sport, like Lilia.

No name or names have been floated by the President’s headhunters, and that’s good news, so far so good. The news would be great if it told us that the persuasive Rodrigo Duterte has been able to persuade General Lilia to stay on.
(Jullie Y. Daza)