THE PHILIPPINES-JAPAN SOCIETY
By unanimous resolution of its Board of Directors
Proudly confers upon
DR. THOMAS G. AQUINO
MEDAL OF MERIT
for Outstanding Achievement in the Promotion
THOMAS G. AQUINO was born in the City of Manila on February 16, 1949. He graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1970 with Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He obtained a Master of Science degree in Industrial Economics from what is known today as the University of Asia and the Pacific in 1972 and a Doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Navarra in Spain in 1980.
The opportunity to be exposed to what is about Japan and its people and their link with the Philippines and its people opened up early in his professional life. While pursuing a University degree, Dr. Aquino did summer work for Distributors and Marketing Corporation selling household appliances that included the predecessor brand of Panasonic television, stereos, among others, in the newly opened subdivisions in Quezon City. It was also during his Physical Education classes where he had as Instructor a young Japanese Olympic swimmer who as a good task-master always instructed his students to take to the water one-by-one starting off by calling out his first student on the line…”ah-kino” during each and every swimming class. Since then, when given a choice of destination for family and social outings between mountains and the sea, his number one choice is always the water, the beach.
During the late 70s and prior to Doctoral studies in the IESE Business School located in Barcelona, Spain, he worked on a research project about cases of Japanese companies identifying the initiating and triggering factors in the process of making their foreign direct investments (FDIs) in manufacturing overseas. The research findings together with a companion research on the same objectives, applied to Spanish manufacturing firms that invested overseas were submitted to the Spanish government that guided the formulation of its policies in assisting Spanish companies invest abroad.
When he returned to the Philippines in 1980, he rejoined an economic research think-tank, the Center for Research and Communication. Among the studies on foreign direct investments in Southeast Asia that Dr. Aquino spearheaded were studies with the Institute of Developing Economies of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) as well as studies on Transportation, Telecommunication, and Tourism (or Triple T) promoted in the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council forum where the Philippines and Japan are members.
After being appointed as a Governor in 1991 in the Philippine Board of Investments (BOI), he was assigned to address issues such as industrial restructuring, green environment, SME’s, Calabarzon, and promoting manufacturing investments into the country from Japan among several foreign countries as origin of FDIs. During his stint at the BOI, Dr. Aquino acquired deep knowledge and experience handling issues that became triggering factors in making several Japanese manufacturing companies to locate in the Philippines. Attending to Japanese CEOs’ needs to understand Philippine culture and way of life became part of his mission including dealing with problems they encountered with government agencies.
Dr. Aquino was appointed Undersecretary for International Trade at the Department of Trade and Industry in 2000. In 2002, he was chosen by the Philippine government to lay the groundwork for the Economic Partnership Agreement between the Philippines and Japan (PJEPA or JPEPA). Conceived as an accompanying Agreement to the Asean-Japan Economic Framework Agreement, the PJEPA took 4 years to conclude including the actual period of negotiations. The agreement was signed in 2006 at the margins of the Asia-Europe Leaders Summit in Helsinki, Finland. It took another two years for the Agreement to be concurred into its ratification process by the Philippine Senate in 2008.
For the lead negotiator and defender of the EPA between the Philippines and Japan, the agreement was a unique opportunity to manifest and promote better understanding, friendship and cooperation between the two countries in an outstanding, exemplary and significant way.
For 6 years, Dr. Aquino led an inter-agency team of high level officials representing the Philippine government, negotiate an economic treaty involving trade, investment and cooperation with high level counterparts from the Japanese government.
The differences in the levels of economic development between both countries and the comprehensive coverage of the EPA encompassing agriculture, industry and service sectors were huge challenges in pursuing trade negotiations to a successful conclusion. Internal agency discussions, public consultations and inter-agency collaboration were undertaken. Likewise, a great deal of information sharing, securing agency head approvals on negotiating positions had to be undertaken. Also, personnel movements and re-assignments of officials involved in the negotiations, budgetary constraints, attendance in hearings at the House of Representatives had to be addressed almost on a regular basis. Apart from consultations with concerned segments of the citizenry, press briefings had to be regularly performed to inform outcomes, address fears of job losses, and bring up challenges to domestic employers, investors, and consumers and confront misunderstandings arising from certain quarters about the forthcoming EPA.
The group of high level officials comprising the Philippine negotiating team had to face a legal suit filed by certain groups before the Supreme Court. The case was won by the Government. The process of concurrence by the Philippine Senate had to be worked out with the individual Senators towards getting the needed number of votes to conclude the ratification process. It was indeed a long journey for the lead negotiator.
For active service to his country, Dr. Aquino was conferred the Presidential Service Award (or Lingkod Bayan) for extraordinary contribution of national impact on public interest, security and patrimony and given the Gawad-Mabini award with the Rank of Grand Cross (or Dakilang Kamanong) for distinguished service to the country at home and abroad by the President of the Republic of the Philippines.
To this day, Dr. Aquino continues to enhance better understanding, friendship and cooperation between the two countries’ journey in harmony towards an East Asia community in the Pacific.
In recognition therefore of the aforesaid achievements, his immeasurable contributions to Philippine Society, and his significant accomplishments in forging meaningful and dynamic relations between Filipinos and Japanese, the Philippines-Japan Society proudly confers upon Dr. Thomas G. Aquino the 34th Philippines-Japan Society Medal of Merit, the highest award within its gift to convey.
Given this 17th day of February in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Twelve in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines on the occasion of the 34th Philippines-Japan Friendship Celebration and the 40th year of the Philippines-Japan Society.
FRANCIS C. LAUREL
BENJAMIN C. LAUREL