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Tugade: ‘A self-made, good leader’

TUGADE      E.I. REYMOND T. OREJAS/CONTRIBUTOR

TUGADE                                      E.I. REYMOND T. OREJAS/CONTRIBUTOR

THE MAN whom President Duterte has chosen to run the transportation department is an informal settler-turned-millionaire, who combined honesty and astute management in his first government job developing the former US Air Force’s Clark Air Base into one of the country’s economic engines.

To those closest to Arthur Tugade, he is the “perfect man” for the Department of Transportation that has earned a bad reputation over the past six years because of Metro Manila’s tangled traffic, deteriorating trains, crowded skies and even an embarrassing bullet-planting scandal at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s main gateway.

In interviews with colleagues who have known him professionally for many years, a recurring theme emerged: a sensitive family man, a “people person” open to collaboration and at times, a near-tyrant when results are required.

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Tugade’s first days as president and chief executive officer of Clark Development Corp. (CDC) proceeded with neither pomp nor pageantry in late December 2012.

Shocking encounter

Only when a CDC employee shared with his friends his “shocking” encounter with Tugade did people learn there was a new man at the helm.

Then the mood changed. “P… ina! Sumunod ka sa batas. Mag-ID ka (You son of a bitch! Follow the rules. Wear your ID),” Tugade thundered.

That story spread fast. By January 2013, without a memorandum, even the habitual violators started wearing their IDs.

In conferences of the board, employees’ assemblies or in small meetings in his office, Tugade was known to curse when he emphasized important points or got excited with brilliant ideas or plans. He was patient when explaining details, targets and processes.

Tugade, founder and chair of the family-owned Perry’s Group of Companies before he joined the government, laughed off these stories about his crude behavior. (The group is the holding firm for Tugade’s flagship logistics business Trans-Global Consolidator’s Inc. apart from its ventures in tourism and hospitality, fuel distribution, food and property development.)

 ‘Just the way I talk’

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“I don’t mean harm. If I’ve offended people, I’m sorry. It’s just the way I talk,” he told the Inquirer  at the time.

Noel Manankil, CDC vice president for finance, didn’t mind the expletives, marveling more at how Tugade led the state agency tasked by law in 1992 with converting the former US air base into civilian use.

“At first, we found [the cuss words] unusual but eventually we realized that they were mere expressions or utterances that were unique to him,” Manankil said.

Arnel Casanova, Bases Conversion and Development Authority CEO, said Tugade “ran [CDC] like hell but it turned out to be heaven,”  referring to Tugade’s  zero tolerance for corruption and revenue leaks prevalent at CDC when he entered the scene.

Schoolmate in San Beda

Tugade was CDC’s 12th president until April 26 when he resigned to help in the election campaign of Mr. Duterte, his schoolmate in San Beda College where they both took up law. Tugade graduated cum laude, a year ahead of the President.

Tugade is not a bad choice for transportation secretary, if accomplishments by CDC were to be the gauge.

Under his administration, CDC reported achieving financial feats in 2015: P1.554 billion in revenue, P697 million in net income and P2.33 billion in cash—the highest in 23 years.

It also remitted to the national government P400 million in cash dividends in 2015, raising to P720 million the agency’s remittances in the last five years.

By the end of 2015, employees in the Clark Freeport reached 82,382. CDC also increased its community projects among Aetas and workers in the provinces of Pampanga and Tarlac.

To secure long-term energy for Clark and surrounding communities, CDC approved a land lease for a $40-million solar power project.

In 2015, CDC received the Asia CEO Award for Executive Leadership Team of the Year. FDI Magazine’s Bespoke Awards Asia hailed CDC in 2014 for cutting red tape, and ranked Clark eighth among the Top 50 Freeport Zones of the Future in 2013.

Tugade said CDC’s accomplishments were achieved not only by improving efficiency through shorter business processes but also by assisting locators and involving the Clark Investors and Locators Association in making policies.

The credit for CDC’s success “largely goes to CDC employees who value honesty, hard work and sacrifices,” he said.

Leading by example

Tugade led by example. He did not accept gifts, which he returned when these were delivered to his office.

When he surrendered some of his mandatory benefits, several CDC officials followed suit, enabling the agency to raise

P2 million that went to fund the shuttle services of employees. CDC also runs a day care center for employees’ children.

Victor Luciano, board member of the Civil Aeronautics Board, who has known Tugade for at least 40 years, said Tugade should be credited for changing the culture and work ethic at CDC.

Luciano said Tugade warned employees against fraternizing with investors and locators. He also cut “long” lunch breaks at CDC and told employees not to abuse the use of government resources, like public vehicles.

“It’s really leadership by example,” Luciano said, adding that Tugade was not afraid to sack employees, especially those found to be corrupt.

“He also comes in very strong with timetables. So when you commit to something, you have to deliver,” Luciano said.

Casanova said Tugade’s will came into full display during last year’s  Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit held in the Philippines for a task “that seemed impossible.”

Casanova said the major criticism for Clark as a venue was its lack of a secure facility to accommodate about 1,000 delegates.

“Art told me he could do it,” Casanova said, noting this gave them confidence to back Tugade’s plans.

Tugade managed to convince Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino to build a P500-million convention center “on its own cost.”

“It’s now the biggest convention center in Central Luzon and it was delivered right in time for the Apec senior officials meeting,”  Casanova said.

Tugade said he worked hard to repay the kindness of San Beda priests who helped him get educational scholarships and to honor the memory of his son Marc Perry, who died at the age of 12.

Tugade was born in Claveria town in Cagayan province. His parents, both public works employees, moved the family to Sampaloc, Manila, when he was in grade school.

When their shanty in Sampaloc was gutted by fire, they transferred to Santo Domingo, a part of the community of Tatalon in Quezon City, where there was no running water. The toilet was a hole in the ground where vegetables grew after the floods.

Priests in San Beda College helped him get an education through scholarships and jobs in the same school, enabling him to finish law. He took up courses at the National University of Singapore’s Stanford executive program.

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TAGS: Arthur Tugade, Nation, news, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, President Duterte
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