Victor A. Lim: pioneer advocate of PH-Japan friendship and cooperation

by Roy Mabasa

As Manila and Tokyo celebrate the 64th anniversary of the normalization of the Philippines-Japan relations on July 23, 2020, a ranking officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) takes us back in time to remember the late Victor A. Lim, one of the pioneering Filipinos who helped plant and nurture the ties between the two countries that are now “bearing fruits and is in full bloom.”

 In an essay, Geronimo Suliguin, Assistant Director at the Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office of the DFA, narrated the utmost efforts made by Lim toward the cause of friendship and cooperation between the Philippines and Japan, for which the latter earned the distinguished Third Order of the Sacred Treasure bestowed by the Emperor of Japan in 1986. 

Academic Excellence

Born on November 13, 1923, Lim was a consistent honor student and graduated cum laude in Mechanical Engineering at the University of the Philippines in 1948. After earning his degree, Victor took his Master of Science degree also in mechanical engineering at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1949 and attended MBA modules at the Harvard Business School in 1950.

Pioneering the ‘Case Method’

On his return to the country, Lim became part of the University of the Philippines’ graduate business school, introducing the case method in 1952, and soon after, at the Ateneo. In 1968, at the infancy stage of the Asian Institute of Management, Lim was invited to join the AIM and later to become its Professor Emeritus in 2008. As a founding faculty of AIM and the Master in Management (MM) program, Lim was known as “Mr. MM.” 

The AIM’s Victor Lim Award for Professional Excellence that lauds outstanding faculty members for their contributions to building and developing the quality and reputation of the Institute and its graduates was thus named after him.

Serving the industry and government

With the merger of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (CCP) and the Philippine Chamber of Industries (PCI) in 1978, Lim was elected to the 15-man charter board to formulate the constitution and by-laws of the newly established Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Aside from the PCCI, he would later become president of other influential groups such as the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA), and the Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers (PSME). 

In 1993 during the Ramos administration, Lim served as chairman of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), including all its subsidiary companies, a position he held until 1996. 

He planned and implemented the privatization of military bases including Fort Bonifacio and Camp John Hay. At that time, Lim envisioned the new high-tech complex, Fort Bonifacio, as the “best alternative to Hong Kong yet.” 

As BCDA chair, Lim joined Damaso Bangoet Jr. of the John Hay-Poro Point Development Corporation (JPDC) in introducing the Panagbenga Festival in 1995, an initiative to improve the economy and tourism industry in Baguio City following the 1990 earthquake.

Healing war wounds

Lim was a recipient of Pacific War ribbons from both the Philippine and US Armies. 

Suliguin noted that it was in post-war years when Lim got involved in efforts to “heal the wounds” between the Philippines and Japan by accepting appointments in various positions leading towards that goal. 

It was in 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty was ratified formalizing the end of hostilities between the Philippines and Japan. This was closely followed by the Reparations Agreement in 1956, both leading to restored normal relations with Japan. 

“In 1957, Lim accepted an appointment in the War Reparations Committee and got involved in the inspection and rehabilitation of Japanese machine tools. Two years later, in 1959, he returned as a Technical Consultant for the Committee in its efforts to expedite the disposal of Advance Japanese Reparations. In 1969, Lim became the Commissioner General of the Philippine Participation to the 1970 Japan World Exposition,” Suliguin wrote. 

Nurturing Philippine-Japan ties

One of Lim’s most outstanding contributions was in cultivating a people-to-people relationships with Japan, highlighted by his stint as Philippine Commissioner General to the 1970 World Expo World’s Fair held in Osaka, Japan. It provided him the opportunity to work closely with then Philippine Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Jose S. Laurel III. The Philippine government awarded him with the Philippine Cultural Heritage Medal also in 1970 for this particular feat.

A year after the World Expo, Lim became one of the incorporators of the Philippines-Japan Society when it was established in 1971 and became its President for seven years from 1985-1992. He was also a founder and one of the “trustees for life” of the Philippines-Japan Friendship Foundation. Lim was also one of the founders of the Philippine Institute of Japanese Language & Culture Foundation, Inc. and the Nihongo Center Foundation Inc.

While serving as President of the Philippines-Japan Society, Lim also served as Chairman of the Philippines-Japan Economic Cooperation Committee (PHILJEC) for two years from 1991 to 1993 and acted as Chairman/co-Chairman of the Joint Meetings with his counterparts from the Japan-Philippines Economic Cooperation Committee (JPECC).

In 1991, Lim was recognized with a Medal of Merit for his Outstanding Achievement in the Promotion of Relations between the two countries by the Philippines-Japan Society, Inc.

“Lim died six years (July 7, 2014) ago but the seed he helped plant and nurture throughout his life is bearing fruits and is in full bloom,” said Suliguin, a former Oxford University scholar who has also written extensive essays on the life and times of Dr. Jose P. Rizal while in Europe. 

Source: Manila Bulletin