Photo shows former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos during the Arangkada anniversary economic forum in Makati in February 2013. — BW File Photo

The wheel of history forever turns. As the years go on, new leaders, heroes, and visionaries become a part of national history. Yet, we must not forget the names of those who have dreamed and labored hard to create the present we enjoy today.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos, who passed away at 94 last July 31, was one such man to be remembered. He had been instrumental in toppling the Marcos dictatorship, and his presidency from 1992 to 1997 came right at that critical point in Philippine history, just four years after the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, following Corazon C. Aquino’s historic term.

According to the Management Association of the Philippines, which released a statement mourning his death, the Ramos administration was known for sweeping reforms on energy, economic liberalization, infrastructure, and social reform among others, which “fueled an engine for national progress built on his twin themes of people empowerment and global competitiveness.”

“His good governance program is unparalleled. He has undoubtedly served the country with the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, and transparency,” the organization said.

Among the most notable of these reforms was his initiative to solve the ongoing power crisis of the time. In his first year, his government reformed the Department of Energy and led the construction of numerous power plants around the country. These efforts were seen to be the some of the first instances of the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model, where private investors are invited to fund certain government infrastructure projects like power plants and railways, make money by charging users, and then transfer operation to the government after a set period.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Loren B. Legarda recognized Mr. Ramos’ work in promoting people empowerment and global competitiveness, saying that he “left a legacy that demonstrated resolute courage, excellent leadership and unwavering allegiance.”

“He led various economic reform initiatives which pushed for the deregulation of key industries and the liberalization of the economy and encouraged the privatization of public entities, to include the modernization of public infrastructure through an expanded Build-Operate-Transfer law,” she said.

Under these reforms, and aided by the economic policies begun by his predecessor, then President Ramos succeeded in opening up the once-closed national economy, encouraging private enterprise as well as inviting foreign and domestic investments into the country. Mr. Ramos saw many of these investment deals himself, as he became known as the most-traveled Philippine President compared to his predecessors, bringing home an estimated $20 billion worth of foreign investments from abroad. He also led the 4th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in the Philippines in November 1996.

In a statement honoring former President Ramos’ legacy, Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri noted that it was particularly the Philippines 2000 program that turned the nation into one that was dubbed as the Sick Man of Asia into Asia’s Next Tiger Economy. The Philippine Stock Exchange in the mid-1990s was one of the best-performing in the world, through his vision of industrializing the economy by the turn of the century.

Senator Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, for her part, said that Mr. Ramos’ vision of Philippines 2000 gave the Philippines “a chance to stand tall beside other Asian economies.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that President Ramos was widely considered as a ‘foreign policy’ President who “shaped the evolution of the DFA by instituting economic diplomacy and the protection of overseas Filipinos as pillars of Philippine foreign policy”.

“His contributions to our foreign policy will continue to benefit future generations of Filipinos. The DFA community extends its support and prayers to the Ramos family at this difficult time,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo said.

Mr. Ramos also had a hand in the creation of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development in 1996, which ultimately led to the final peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front.

After his presidency, he continued to espouse the same ideals he sought to instill in the government. Mr. Ramos pushed for the country to become economically competitive on the global market. He represented the Philippines in the ASEAN Eminent Persons Group, tasked to draft the Charter of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and he also served as a member of numerous international groups and fora, including serving as chairman and co-founder of the Board of Directors of the Boao Forum for Asia and co-chairman of the Global Meeting of the Emerging Markets Forum (EMF). He was also heavily recommended for the position of the United Nations envoy to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) in June 2006.

More recently, Mr. Ramos as a private citizen served various private sector advocacies including chairman for the Ramos Peace and Development Foundation; chairman, Boao Forum for Asia; trustee, International Crisis Group (ICG); member, Advisory Group, UN University for Peace; honorary director, General Douglas MacArthur Foundation; founding member, Policy Advisory Commission, World Intellectual Property Organization (PAC-WIPO); honorary member, World Commission on Water for the 21st century; member, International Advisory Council, Asia House; Patron, Opportunity International (Philippines); global advisor, University of Winnipeg; honorary chairman, Yuchengco Center, De La Salle University; member, Advisory Board, Metrobank; honorary president, Human Development Network (HDN) Philippines; lifetime honorary president, Christian Democrats International (CDI); and chairman emeritus, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) Party.

The former President was also a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance in the form of democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and the rule of law.

Hailing from Lingayen, Pangasinan, Mr. Ramos was born to lawyer and congressman Narciso Ramos and educator Angela Valdez on March 18, 1928 in Lingayen, Pangasinan. He studied at the National University where he received his civil engineering degree. He also graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Military Engineering degree from the US Military Academy, after which he earned his masters in civil engineering at the University of Illinois.

He is survived by Amelita Martinez, whom he married in 1954, as do their daughters, Angelita Ramos-Jones, Carolina Ramos-Sembrano, Cristina Ramos-Jalasco, and Gloria Ramos. A fifth daughter, Josephine Ramos-Samartino, died in 2011. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran