Press Release
November 11, 2019

Senate adopts resolution expressing condolences on death of John Gokongwei Jr.

Senators today passed a resolution expressing their sympathy and condolences on the death of businessman and philanthropist John Gokongwei Jr.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon introduced Senate Resolution No. 212 on Gokongwei, whom he described as "a pillar of the Philippine economy." Gokongwei died Saturday, Nov. 9, at the age of 93.

"He had very simple rules in his life. First he said, 'love your work' and indeed simple as it is, it says a lot of his life, of why he has succeeded," Drilon said. The resolution was co-sponsored and co-authored by all senators.

Drilon recalled how the founder and chairman emeritus of JG Summit Holdings persevered when he was orphaned at an early age and helped his mother provide for the needs of his siblings by selling roasted peanuts, soap, candles and threads in Cebu.

"But such poverty did not prevent him from succeeding to become a pillar of the Philippine economy and to start with, established in 1957 a cornstarch plant, Universal Robina Corp., which eventually became one of the country's largest food and beverage companies. His hard work, perseverance and vision led to the establishment of other major companies in the country such as Robinsons Land Corp., Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. and Cebu Air Inc., which generated thousands of jobs for our jobless Filipinos and gave them an opportunity to succeed in life," he said.

Both Drilon and Zubiri noted the move taken by Gokongwei and his brothers in 1992 to donate a significant portion of their shares of stock to support the education sector in the country through the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation.

In 2006 when he turned 80 years old, Gokongwei donated half of his fortune to the foundation.

"I think (it amounted to) P20 billion, one of the largest donations in the Philippines to build schools," said Zubiri.

"He was a visionary. He was really a game-changer. He came up with another airline. One time we only had one airline. Either that or you ride a boat. I remember there was a time that people used to ride a boat to Iloilo, to Negros, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro. But because of the advent of the budget airline, Cebu Pacific, people now have an option," Zubiri said.

According to Drilon, Gokongwei lived a life whose hard work, business acumen and philosophy helped open doors of opportunities to his fellow Filipinos.

"Given all of these things that he has done for our country and our people, I submit that it is only fitting that this chamber express its profound sympathy and sincere condolences to the family of the late Mr. John Gokongwei, his wife Elizabeth and their children for having lost a father, a husband and to the entire country, the country lost an outstanding citizen whose life we will always remember," Drilon said.

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