Henry Lim Bon Liong has for decades operated as Chairman and CEO of the Sterling Paper Group of Companies and SL Agritech Corporation, providing everyday Filipinos items and food such as Sterling notebooks and Jasponica Rice. Last year, he took on a new challenge as he stepped up as the newly-elected President of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated (FFCCCII).
A LONG-LASTING FEDERATION
The FFCCCII is one of the largest business federations in the Philippines, with over 170 organizations under their umbrella and chapters all over the country. They are also being consulted when laws are being enacted, and they play an important role when it comes to disaster relief. The organization prides itself as well in building hundreds of classrooms that over 700,000 students have studied in. This decorated history is something that Lim Bon Liong is proud of, having been part of the Federation for 25 years after being recruited by one of the older guards of the organization. “That time I decided, that I would just give my support, not knowing that once you enter the Federation, it’s difficult to get out of the Federation,” he describes as a longtime member.
He acknowledges the difficulty of entering the Federation: to join, you need to be a representative of any one of the organizations, as well as join one of their bi-annual conventions, with each organization being allowed 2-14 members. Lim Bon Liong describes the hectic process: “Every year, there are around 800 delegates joining the convention, and out of these 800, we elect around 300 members. And out of these 300, we elect 47 board members. And out of these 47 board members, we elect the President and the Vice President…. For you to become the President, you really have to get the support of everybody.
SERVING THE ASSOCIATION
Lim Bon Liong was lucky that in his first year, he was already elected Vice Chairman for the Welfare Committee, where he traveled all around the country to far-flung places to turn over several school buildings. “I’m happy and I’m enjoying it, because every time we go to these places, you can see the school children waving their flags. You can see the happy faces. As you turn over to them, they will give you some souvenirs,” he reminisces. He later joined the External Affairs Committee, where he served as Chairman for several years.
“25 years is a quarter of a century, so I spent the best years of my life serving the association,” he says, “so I was happy that, at long last, I was given the opportunity to lead the Federation.” As the newly-elected President for two years, he hopes that he could lead the FFCCCII to “greater heights.” Upon winning the position, he received to his surprise several congratulatory messages from several prominent figures both in the Philippines and in China. “I’m happy that I won the election fair and square, and I’m happy that at this point in time is healing time. We want to heal the Federation and to make sure that everybody is working harmoniously…towards trying to develop a good, friendly atmosphere for the Chinese-Filipinos here and also with China. We’re the bridge between China and the Philippines,” he shares of his actions after being elected President, continuing, “It’s a very short two years. Hopefully, I can finish what I’m planning to do and hopefully, I can leave a good legacy for others to follow.”
THE LONG ROAD AHEAD
The FFCCCII has achieved a long-lasting legacy as an association that protects small businesses. He looked back at when his father ran a small bookstore in Chinatown, and couldn’t fathom at how people could reach the heights of a Presidential rank, which was something he achieved. “Today, I’m sitting here inside the Office of the FFCCCII, and I’m happy that I’m here. I think if my father, wherever he is right now, I want to make him happy.”
He views the Federation’s three Treasures as their barrio school project, relief operations, and the volunteer fire brigade, “But I think we should outgrow ourselves with these three Treasures. I hope during my term we can make the scope wider, and we could give more recognition for the Federation.”
“Running the Federation is not like running my own company. Running my own company, I can lose my temper. But running the Federation, I can never lose my temper. You have to get the sympathy [and] support [of the people]. You are dealing with people who are equally rich or even richer than you, so you can’t just boss them around. It’s just how you can influence them and try to gel them together to become a moving force that will lead the Federation to greater heights,” he says as he faces the long road ahead. “It’s a tough job, but I think I can do it.”