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Remembering an inspiring, principled leader

An icon in the country’s business scene, it is no doubt that Oscar M. Lopez already has his name secured in the minds of the business community. But for the companies he led and his family, they remember “OML” or “Oskie” more than a business leader.

Mr. Lopez, who passed away a few days after his 93rd birthday last April, was the patriarch of the Lopez family and known for rebuilding the First Philippine Holdings Corp. (FPHC), which has interests in renewable energy, manufacturing, real estate, construction, healthcare, and education. Mr. Lopez is also remembered for his steadfast advocacy for the environment and social justice as well as for being an inspiration.

During the funeral vigil for Mr. Lopez, his granddaughter Marianna Lopez Vargas shared in a eulogy how she recognized her grandfather’s — or “Tata”, as she called him — environmental advocacy and belief in social justice at the Oscar M. Lopez Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Foundation, Inc. (OML Center).

“On the surface, the foundation seemed like a manifestation of my Tata’s staunch environmental advocacy, but in my years working there, I came to discover it to be so much more. At its core, it stemmed from my Tata’s unwavering belief in social justice,” Ms. Vargas said.

“His belief in social justice was not a self-righteous one, but rather one of a genuine desire to take people out of harm’s way and narrow the gap between those with very little receiving even less and those with so much getting even more,” she continued.

Looking at the impact of the OML Center on people’s lives was also significant for Mr. Lopez.

“Something my Tata would always ask the foundation is, how many lives have we saved? When you are in the work of scientific research, measuring and attributing such impact is extremely difficult, and yet that seemed to be the only metric that truly mattered to him,” Ms. Vargas said.

The OML Center also remembered Mr. Lopez for his “lifelong love” for the environment, nature, and science, making him an advocate for the part of businesses in dealing with climate change.

“He held a longstanding belief that the resilience of society is inextricably linked to the sustainability of the environment and the dignity of communities on which environmental integrity depends,” the foundation said.

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The OML Center said it was “deeply blessed” for the “unwavering support and guidance” it received from Mr. Lopez, and looks to carry on honoring the ethos and vision of its founder.

Mr. Lopez’s belief that the environmental and societal impact of a business should be considered was also remembered by FPHC, apart from being its chairman emeritus as well as his guidance for the people at the Lopez Group.

“OML, as he was known to us, led FPH through its expansion into power generation, industrial estates, construction, and other fields. But his conviction that business must look beyond just the bottom line and consider its impact on society and the environment was years ahead of his time and will be his enduring legacy,” the holding corporation said in a Facebook post.

“He was our North Star, the inspiration, and guide for succeeding generations of Lopez Group executives and employees who learned to treasure and practice with him the Group’s distinct core values: a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit, business excellence, unity, nationalism, and social justice,” it added.

His care for the nation’s progress and people’s welfare was also remembered.

“We honor OML for his inspiring and principled leadership of the Lopez companies. A staunch advocate of national development and social justice, OML was genuinely concerned with the progress of the country and the welfare of its people,” First Gen Corp., a subsidiary of FPHC, said in a LinkedIn post.

“He was deeply admired and loved, and his legacy lives on in the work that we do each day,” the renewable energy provider expressed.

Mr. Lopez’s business leadership also involved putting the welfare of the people in the company as a priority, which was among the things that construction firm First Balfour remembered about him.

“His unwavering commitment to social justice and environmental advocacy, as well as his prioritization of the welfare of his employees, made him an exceptional leader and an inspiration to everyone of us in First Balfour,” the company posted on LinkedIn. “Your legacy will forever be remembered and celebrated, OML.” — Chelsey Keith P. Ignacio

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