Former PEZA Director-General Lilia de Lima and local theater group Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) have been selected as two of six awardees of this year's prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award.
De Lima was tasked to be the first Director-General of the government agency that promotes and regulates foreign investments in the country’s economic zones in 1995.
The award-giving body said it elected de Lima to receive the prestigious award in recognition of "her unstinting, sustained leadership in building a credible and efficient PEZA, proving that the honest, competent and dedicated work of public servants can, indeed, redound to real economic benefits to millions of Filipinos."
The board noted that de Lima "single-mindedly pursued a program of reform," which halved the bloated 1,000-person bureaucracy she had inherited from a system of political patronage.
Under her watch, ecozones increased by 2,000 percent to 343 by 2016 from the initial 16 she inherited. Registered enterprises also rose to 3,756 from 331 and investments reached P3 trillion.
She served the agency for 21 years, retiring only in June 2016.
Meanwhile, the RMAF praised PETA for "its bold, collective contributions in shaping the theater arts as a force for social change, its impassioned, unwavering work in empowering communities in the Philippines, and the shining example it has set as one of the leading organizations of its kind in Asia."
Now on its 50th year, PETA was founded with the initial vision of creating a "national theater" in the Philippines.
The foundation said PETA "rose to prominence with groundbreaking productions in Filipino, the national language, that were remarkable for their artistry and social relevance, at a time of resurgent nationalism."
Other Ramon Magsaysay Awardees this year are:
Yoshiaki Ishizawa of Japan for "restoring Cambodia's treasured gift to world culture"
Abdon Nababan of Indonesia for "giving compelling face and voice to Adat communities and their rights"
Gethsie Shanmugam of Sri Lanka for "rebuilding lives from the psychosocial wounds of war and violence"
Tony Tay of Singapore for "mobilizing collective goodwill to address hidden hunger"
The Ramon Magsaysay Award, recognized as Asia’s premier prize and highest honor, "celebrates greatness of spirit and transformative leadership" in the region.