Manila Mayor Isko Moreno hugs his former boss, DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade after a press conference at the Manila City Hall on July 11, 2019. Photograph by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Culture Spotlight

Upclose and personal with Transport Sec. Art Tugade, Mayor Isko’s former boss

If Manila Mayor Isko is now known as an action man who delivers quick results, he might have taken notes on how his former boss, now Transportation Secretary Art Tugade, approached a job. If you’ve only heard of Sec. Tugade after last week’s viral hug, here’s a 2018 interview that reveals a lot about the man and his work.
Rafael A. S. G. Ongpin | Jul 15 2019

This story first appeared in the June-July 2018 issue of Asian Dragon Magazine. It is published here with permission from its writer and the magazine’s editor Rafael “Apa” A.S.G. Ongpin, and Asian Dragon publisher Olivia Limpe-Aw.


There is a personal dimension to this interview, because 20 years ago, this guy was my boss. Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade spent the first 45 years of his career in the corporate world. He was the president of the Transnational Diversified Group (TDG) of J. Roberto “Robbie” Delgado. Art had started out working for Robbie’s father. When Robbie went on his own, he took Art with him, and together with their team, they built TDG into a multi-billion peso juggernaut.

TDG was built on important relationships with foreign principals, relationships that Robbie nurtured and grew, while Art was the bastonero, the enforcer, who built the organization and relentlessly drove it to run efficiently and profitably.

Art grew up poor. His parents were Ilocano migrants to the city. They lived in Sampaloc and Tatalon, and he spent a lot of time on the streets as a child, “up to no good,” as he himself admits. He ate frugal meals out of plastic bags, as his parents struggled to make ends meet. They had no running water, and their toilet was an outhouse. The area often flooded in the rainy season, and Art would collect kangkong that drifted around, or would catch gourami fish to eat, using a motorcycle battery and live wires.

He attended San Beda College under a scholarship from elementary to law school. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in Philosophy from the university in 1967, and again, Magna Cum Laude and valedictorian from the law school in 1971. He notes that he spent most of his time in the library, as he could not afford to buy his own law books. He was classmates, and friends, with Rodrigo Duterte, at San Beda Law.

Shot by Rafael A. S. G. Ongpin on Kodak Tri-X, with a 1957 Nikon S2 rangefinder, Nikkor S.C. 50mm ƒ1.4 lens, film processed and scanned by Fotofabrik Foto.

After passing the bar in 1972, and a brief period practising law privately, he joined the office of Ambassador Antonio Delgado as an executive assistant. He reinforced his education with an Executive Education program at the National University of Singapore in 1985.

Art started his own group, called Perry’s Group of Companies, in 2003. He left TDG soon after. Perry’s was named after a son of Art who died tragically young from an illness. The group, which is now run by Art’s children, engages in niche entrepreneurial businesses such as boutique hotels and travel services, as well as mainstream businesses, such as gasoline stations.

In 2012, Art was appointed President and CEO of Clark Development Corporation. He turned it from a subsidized state firm into a profitable revenue generator for the government, grossing about PhP1.5 billion from 2013 to 2015.

Art knows more about business and people than almost any other manager I have ever met. He has a deep understanding of finance, operations and control, efficiencies, programming, selecting and motivating people, negotiation, business modelling, planning and structure, strategy, competition, and investment.

His management style is not for everyone, as he is the first to admit. He can have a violent temper, and does not stand for any incompetence or nonsense. On one of my first days on the job, he told a group of us young managers, “Don’t worry, you will never disappoint me, because I never get disappointed: I get angry. If you screw up, I will simply fire you, instead of wasting my time with disappointment.”

One former TDG executive told me, when I joined the company: “Art Tugade is [a stream of expletives]. But everything I know about business, I learned from him.”

On one of my first days on the job, he told a group of us young managers, “Don’t worry, you will never disappoint me, because I never get disappointed: I get angry.”

I can certainly attest to the learning part. Here are excerpts from our interview.

AD: You have had great success in the private sector, including the Clark Development Corporation. You could retire already if you wanted to. Why did you take on this headache of joining government?

APT: I don’t know. Maybe it is some compelling moral reason, but let’s go to the more simplistic. Number one, I campaigned for Pres. Duterte. I campaigned hard for him. I had the temerity to leave government, and explicitly say that I am leaving, because I will campaign for my classmate. Many said that was a wrong move because I was throwing the dice on the table. But I did that. Nanalo eh. Akala ko hindi siya mananalo, eh nanalo. Alangan naman iwan ko siya ngayong nanalo siya.

But shying away from very simplistic reasons, perhaps it’s payback time. Perhaps, I said, I am now in a position wherein I should not be corrupted. I am now in a position where I told myself – “Hey Art, don’t go for money but go for the memory and the legacy. Here is the golden opportunity for you. Hey Art, you are 71 years old (at that time), in the twilight of your life, maybe you do something for the bansa, for the republic and the Filipino people”. Believe it or not, that was the reason, Apa.

I have assumed and performed the functions for barely two years, in the lonesome and the quiet of the night, I ask myself, [expletive], why did I accept the job? If I consider my acceptance of this responsibility a job, amigo, I would have left a long time ago. You are underpaid. You are exposed to sarcasm, ridicule and even suspicion, at every move you make. People question. You don’t draw allowances, you don’t draw representation expenses, you know, what the heck. ‘Pag trabaho ito, p’re, alis na ako. But then I consoled myself, and told myself, hindi trabaho ito, commitment at advocacy na ito. Go for it. And like any advocacy, any commitment, mahirap talaga yan. Tuloy mo lang hanggat kaya mo. Kayat tinutuloy-tuloy ko lang hanggat kaya ko. Yes, you are right, Apa. Dapat lang, if I wanted to take it easy, as many would, why will I take a heavy load?

AD: ‘Di ba, you had a health scare some years ago?

APT: Yeah. Yes, Yes. I imploded. I had an operation. I was given a less than 50-50 chance of survival. Now tell me, Apa, I thought about this – bakit kaya ako binuhay?

AD: So it changed your…

APT: It changed my perspective, my outlook. I started getting involved in street children. I started getting involved in NGOs. I was changing my patterns of business to make it employee-centered.

AD: What year was this?

APT: I was 59 years old at that time. Nobody believed when I started complaining about myself. They thought I was feigning. But then one day it happened. It happened and I imploded. When I asked permission from Robbie Delgado to leave, they thought I was feigning but barely a year after I left I imploded. Iyon yun, hindi ko alam.

Justification na lang, pay back time. Legacy moments. Memory opportunities. Hindi na money, tapos na ako diyan. Tapos na ako diyan.

AD: Yeah, I guess this was a life changing experience for you. This was Art Tugade 2.0.

APT: (laughing) It is! You know, the transition, ang hirap, pare. But then, it’s got to be. It had to be done, it had to be accomplished.

AD: But then you are still the same commanding personality that I remember when you were my boss…

APT: No it does not change. The passion to do something, to perform, even out-perform, is still there. Kasi dito sa trabahong ito kung wala kang passion, su-surrender ka dito. You know me as an early worker ‘di ba? I still start my day at 7 o’ clock in the morning, and I travel from Ayala Alabang to here. Today, I was here 10 minutes to 7am. Imagine what time I left my house. That is almost daily. If that is work — who is the idiot who would do that?

AD: Just getting from Ayala Alabang to Balintawak is already half a day.

APT: That is the added reason why we have to improve the traffic flow. Call it personal, because I am experiencing it everyday.

AD: The SLEX-NLEX connector should be finished in about 18 months?

APT: That is a flagship project of the Department of Public Works and Highways headed by Secretary [Mark] Villar, a very hard-working, industrious secretary. He is to finish that in barely two years. And wow, when that happens! Couple that with the train, the new airport terminal, with the inter-operability of tolls, travelling to Clark, in this part of the city and the rest of the country would be easy. If you have options and alternatives, and you have a faster transport system, abot iyan, pare, in less than an hour.

AD: Wow! Fantastic! Because it is only 75 kilometers, right?

APT: That is correct, more or less. At hindi lang yan sa Clark ha. Inter-operability, connectivity and mobility will happen all over the country, not just Clark. That is the marching order of our President.

AD: Tell me about the train. This project has been going on since before my children were born.

APT: Agreed. At this time, the train from Tutuban to Clark is already being implemented. We are starting with mobilization and clearing up.

AD: Let us start with the right of way.

APT: Yes, we are starting with the clearing up. We are starting with the re-alignment of utilities and we are starting with the right of way. Alam mo, yung realignment of utilities, hindi mo naririnig na problema iyan, pero that is a major issue.

AD: I know. I am sure NGCP is the one…

APT: They are cooperating.

AD: Are you going to use the original alignment of the train that used to go to Damortis [Pangasinan]?

APT: Substantially yes, but there will be a little deviation. Some would be more elevated, some would be grounded. Let me tell you, that would not be possible if this administration would not have solved one legal issue.

AD: Which is?

APT: The Northrail-Sinomach… Remember the Chinese issue? [Note: ‘Sinomach’ is the new name of China National Machinery and Engineering Group (CNMEG), the original contractor. —Ed.]

AD: Well, yes, but it used to be the Spanish, then the Chinese took over.

APT: Then, hindi natuloy, then, nagka demandahan.

AD: Eh kasi may na invest na silang pera.

APT: Oo, malaki. Did you know that we were able to settle that? For free! Walang consideration. Government did not pay a single cent. The government did not commit itself to give them projects, all in their trust and faith in the new administration of Pres. Duterte. All in their belief that, at long last, the railroad will be put up. Pare, natapos namin iyan in barely six months. Very quietly, walang pangakong contrata, walang consideration.

AD: Talaga? That case was dragging on for around eight years or something..

APT: In barely eight months, we are all pogi. Natapos iyan. Like your expression – talaga!

AD: That is quite an achievement. So who won the contract?

APT: Wala pa. Procurement is now in place. Magkakaroon ng bidding in the next couple of weeks. But we do not anticipate any problem there anymore. We will complete that in barely three years. You know, speaking of trains, alam mo ba, na yung total rail population ng Pilipinas ngayon is only 77 kilometres? Do you know that our objective is 1,900 kilometres of railways? It is a long shot, but we will do the three-point shot.

Where will that 1,900 kilometres be? You know, Tutuban to Clark, Tutuban to Calamba, Los Banos going to Bicol, you know about the MRT and the LRT, right? Of course, you know about the Mindanao railways. We’ll do the procurement, we start next year, the first phase: the Tagum-Davao-Digos portion, of 600 kilometres.

There will be lots of improvement. And the one good thing with the DOTr having office here in Clark is that we can now personally and directly monitor the first railway track. Talagang titignan namin iyon. From 77 to 1,900, that is a tall order. That is a big dream.

AD: It will take time.

APT: Yeah, but its got to start. Most of the projects we will finish during the term of the President. But the Mindanao express, not complete and whole. It’s too long, 900 kilometers. Hindi namin matatapos iyan, but the first phase, we want it finished by the end of the term of the President. The Tutuban-Clark, finished by 2022. The Tutuban-Malolos-Calamba and the first phase of Mindanao finished. So these are the things that we want to be able to do during the term of the President.

AD: Ok. So tell me about the airport roadmap.

APT: (Laughing) Ikaw ha. I know, you told me you were in aviation. I will tell you about the airport roadmap. You see, this is the aviation roadmap which I designed, as Secretary of the Department of Transportation. At present, we have only the NAIA and Clark. NAIA is being improved. Clark is being renovated and rehabilitated.

AD: Are you going to add a second runway?

APT: Ultimately, it will go there but it depends on how the factors on the platform will be finalized and consummated. As you develop NAIA, you must really do a full-blown rehab situation in Clark. But as you do this, I will explain later, you have to develop other sites or situs for airline operators, operations.

Right now there are two sites being [discussed]. Nandiyan ang Bulacan, Ramon Ang group. Nandiyan ang Sangley. Yung sa Sangley, dalawa ang proposal ngayon diyan. One is an unsolicited proposal by the Solar group, and the other one is a government-to-government proposal by the province of Cavite, [Governor Jesus “Boying”] Remulla and his group, as local officials.

What is my position? My position is – improve and rehabilitate Clark, which we are doing now. When I say “which we are doing now”, as we talk, we have started the bid for [Clark] Terminal 2. That has been a topic of conversation for a couple of years. Now it is a reality. We are opening the bid in a matter of time. We will have an operator and we will have an O&M.

As we do this, there are plans to develop a second runway [at NAIA]. So we will now have to improve the terminal operation, as we have to improve the facilities, the structure, the system and even the habits of the people working in NAIA terminal 1, 2, 3 and 4. Kailangan i-improve mo iyan. There was an issue before of punctuality in NAIA.

Remember there was an issue before, of NAIA being one of the four worst airports in the world? Eh, kung sabihin ko sa iyo na hindi na one of the worst airports in the world iyan? Sabi ng mga international organization, it is one of the most improved airports in the world. Now, it is in the category of good or satisfactory. Imagine the jump, from the worst to most improved. That is NAIA 1, 2, 3 and 4, that is Clark.

As we do this, we have approved the unsolicited proposal for Bulacan, they purport to put several runways. Matatapos yung dalawang runway before the end of the term of the President. Whether they do it or not, that is for the future to tell. I hope they are able to do it.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte chats with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade as he leads the inspection of the Sangley Airport Development Project in Cavite City on June 17, 2019. Photograph by Simeon Celi, Jr, Presidential Photo

AD: What is the connector, NLEX?

APT: No. There will be multiple connections. The rail network will pass through the periphery, but there will be a road network that will open itself to the airport, to the Bulacan one. But as you develop Bulacan, you look at Sangley.

AD: Sangley is problematic. The runway is only about 1.3 or 1.4 nautical miles, maximum.

APT: You are absolutely correct.

AD: So you will have to reclaim so much. Mahirap na iyon. Malalim doon.

APT: If that is needed, amigo, immediately I could do it for general aviation ‘di ba? You know, I was there, just this Saturday, to personally inspect again Sangley, and it is doable with the cooperation of the Navy, Armed Forces, the LGU, and we were all there, just this Saturday. And there was optimism in the air, because of the collaboration, cooperation and willingness to make that Sangley airport bubbly and alive.

I will make all the airports an option for each other. I honestly believe that NAIA Terminal 1, 2, 3, and 4 will not be there forever. It cannot be there forever. When that moment in time happens, when NAIA already ceases to operate as an airport, both international and domestic, it becomes what? A real estate platform. Imagine a situation where you will develop NAIA as a real estate platform, that is bigger than BGC.

AD: I understand that has been talked about in the past…

APT: Pag ginawa mo iyan pare, at operational yung Sangley, operational yung Bulacan at operational yung Clark, eh, ‘di maganda. Eh kung hindi, operational yung Clark, operational yung Sangley, hindi ba maganda din? Pag operational yung Bulacan…

AD: It is just that the real estate play, if you look at the history of the big airports of the world: JFK did not cause La Guardia to close and become a real estate play. Narita did not cause the closure of Haneda. Le Bourget is still operating. Gatwick and Biggin Hill are still operating.

APT: Correct, but mayroon tayong Bulacan at mayroon tayong Sangley. In other words, there are other options already in place. You understand? So that NAIA can be the “Gatwick”, pati Bulacan na iyan or Sangley. And you can develop it. Again you are opening the option of NAIA being a real estate play. That is the reason why I cannot agree to a concession period of 35 years. When the Consortium Of Seven offered a concession period of 35 years, I said no way. No way! In fairness to them, last week they lowered it to 15 years.

AD: 15! Wow, that is a huge change. I thought they were going to offer 20.

APT: 15. They offered 15. Maybe I will counter offer 12. Maybe. We will see how the negotiations will go but then they realized that 35 years concession is a no-no, at least for me. Kawawa naman ang bansa, pare.

AD: Yeah. Let us look at the examples of the past. Pag binigyan ng napakatagal, inaabuso iyon.

APT: At saka, no sovereign guarantee. No government subsidy, in any form. No guarantee of transfer of accounts, by poaching on existing airports. There will be no unemployment when you improve on the airports. And at the same time the govt will maintain all the standards of service and will have a say on all tariffs.

AD: Fantastic.

APT: Kasi kung walang say ang government sa tariffs baka tumaas yung ground handling at saka yung parking, kawawa naman uli ang tao at ang bansa. So, itong limang ito. Now, here is the catch. The aviation roadmap is just for Metro Manila? No, sir! It is all over. It is integral that you develop the other regional and provincial airports. How? Both by increasing runways or developing runways, also, immediately making them all night-rated.

AD: Right now, what is night-rated? Manila, Cebu, Davao?

APT: No, when we assumed, there were 9 or 11, I am not sure of the numbers, after one year we had 14 or 15. And you know what is the icing on the cake? Yung CAAP, there is a new building, Now you can monitor all flights, and anything and everything in the open sky, makikita mo. Di ba fantastic iyon? ‘Yan ang Aviation Roadmap. Sa’n ang probinsya mo?

AD: My mother’s family comes from Baguio.

APT: Ah, I cannot land a plane there [laughs].

AD: Yeah, it’s very difficult. It is really Poro Point that is the most practical.

APT: You know, Puerto Princesa, binuksan namin. San Vicente binuksan namin. Lal-lo [Cagayan], binuksan ko. Cebu Terminal 2 will be completed, inaugurated on June 7. Panglao, almost starting from ground zero. That will be commercially operational, ang target namin is in August. Totohanan na ito, pare.

AD: That is great.

APT: When we speak about mobility and connectivity, totohanan ito, pare.

AD: How about the Marine Sector? That is a tough one.

APT: Una, the Philippines is an archipelago, consisting of various islands including the three largest – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. How do you connect that? By bridge, that is the domain of public works. Pero kami, we create ports. We develop and encourage roll-on, roll-off para may connectivity, para may operability, for full passengers. We are putting, right now, several ports. In this annual report you will see later on the places we are putting the ports.

Alam mo yung lighthouse? Karamihan hindi na gumagana. So, pinapagana namin, and then it will not be just tourism facilities, but it will be a professional maritime tool for the nation. Ginagawa po namin yan. May listahan kami niyan.

But more importantly, the safety and security of the Filipino people in the open sea. Trabaho ng navy, pero yung coast guard, sa akin din iyan. So we are buying watercraft, we are increasing people. We have presence now in most of the maritime waters. They are all here. Makikita mo lahat pati yung mga equipment na binili namin. And one thing, you are familiar with transportation, by June this year, I will inaugurate, or Pres. Duterte will inaugurate, the first barge terminal ever in the republic of the Philippines.

AD: Fantastic. Where are you going to put it?

APT: In Tanza [Navotas], again, I went there noong Saturday.

AD: That area is full of squatters. How did you…

APT: Nilinis yan ng ICTSI, tinapos ng ICTSI, at no expense to government. What is this barge terminal? Yung mga container na dumadaan sa kalsada, they will now move by barge. Hindi na sa kalsada. The 20-footers and the 40-footers. Maybe we will be successful with fifty percent. But over time, you can create more of this thing and have all the containers outside of the road. Mag o-operate sila on water, walang color-coding.

AD: That is a brilliant idea. Everyone has been talking about the Pasig River for passenger.

APT: Speaking of Pasig River, there is a full blown aggressive program really to develop Pasig River. We created a committee. Ang chairman niyan another energetic, creative and innovative Secretary, Ben Diokno. Alam mo kung bakit siya? Siya yung secretary of Budget. If you are local government and you don’t cooperate…[laughs] no-brainer. There is an inter-agency department. And he is pushing it fast, quick and aggressive. So, made-develop yan. Ayun ang mga programa diyan.

AD: That is good. Let us talk about domestic shipping. I remember, when I worked for you, you explained to me, [at the time], it is cheaper to send a container from Manila to San Francisco than from Manila to Davao. Has that changed?

APT: Baka magulat ka sa ginawa namin, Apa. Yes! We started the first RoRo between Indonesia and Davao. Before, it took them two to three weeks, now it takes them two to three days. Before it takes them US$2,000 per container, now US$200 per container. As we do RoRo operation domestic, we do RoRo operation maritime, bilateral or trilateral agreement with other countries. These are being done. Of course the issue of cargo, the issue of piracy in open seas, na-a-address din yan.

AD: Is piracy still a problem?

APT: Oo naman. That is why there are efforts to create a satellite based tracking system, not limited to transponders. That is why there is a need for fast moving crafts. Ang katawa-tawa nun, yung mga Abu Sayaf, mabilis yung mga sasakyan nila, mabilis pa sa mga sasakyan ng mga coast guard. Pero ngayon, try us, kasi 25 -30 knots kami ngayon. And then we did some prohibitions on registrations on bangkas and motorized vessels in open seas kaya hindi na nangyayari ngayon. Madaming ginagawa ngayon diyan. Barely twp years.

AD: That is—by the way, just for disclosure, I’m in a lobby group. We are trying to institute a system of registration for private yachts and motor vessels.

APT: I know that. In fact, I have been talking with them. I share your dream that one day part of our beautiful waters will be home to international yachting.

AD: You know Bangkok, from almost zero, 20 years ago, to maybe 3,000 yachts today.

APT: I know too, of the registration delays. Biro mo, mag ya-yate ka, aba, bibilhin mo, iuutang mo, hindi mo maire-register agad iyan. In the meantime, may binabayaran kang financing. Again we have to address the issue of security kasi baka naman yung mga nakasakay diyan mga terorista, yung iba may mga dalang droga or diamante. But then again, details of implementation should not obstruct the realization of a good concept. You have to refine and rationalize the details of the implementation.

AD: We want to propose a self-regulatory regime for this, to take the load off the government, so that they won’t have to create another government bureaucracy.

APT: They presented to me, and I said, you don’t have to convince me. I have to have connectivity, interconnectivity and the inter-operability of the various modes of transport. Okey sa akin yan. Address lang natin yung issue ng security, not only of piracy and terrorism but also drugs and smuggling. That is why we need to satellite-track. That is why we need fast-moving crafts. That is why we are adding personnel. In fact, it is my target, in Coast Guard alone, to increase my compliment of men and women by 40,000 by the end of the term of the President. Again, a tall order. Well, the President, you know, has a strong political will.

AD: Yeah, that is important in this scenario. This is about political will. You have been sued already.

APT: Even now, I have cases all over the place.

AD: Tell me how you are dealing with those guys.

APT: You know, they say that if you don’t have cases, you are not doing your job. So I pat myself on the back, siguro I am doing my job because I have cases. So, okey lang.

Ganito iyan pare: kung ayaw mo ng kaso, kung ayaw mo na iniinsulto ka sa media, kung ayaw mo na gagawan ka ng eskandalo, don’t join government. Pati nga mga pari meron ding scandals ‘di ba? Those are the things you just have to live with.

AD: How about the MRT maintenance contract, what is going to happen there?

APT: Siguro in the next 30 days.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte receives the certificates of acknowledgement of dividend remittances with outstanding contributions from various Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) during the GOCC Day at the Malacañan Palace on July 11, 2019. Presenting the certificates on behalf of the eight GOCCs that have contributed P1 billion and above is Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade. Also in the photo is Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. Photograph by Toto Lozano, Presidential Photo

AD: What happened there?

APT: There is a case. I sued them for plunder. Si Roxas, si Abaya and a lot of officials. We terminated the contract with Busan and we are now self-managing it, but we cannot sustain it on our own in the long term. I am bringing in Sumitomo.

AD: Are they willing to come back?

APT: When I talked to them the first time, they were not. But now, they are ready to come back with the help of the Japanese government.

AD: It was a missionary thing for them, because the rate did not change for the past 20 years?

APT: Iyon, hindi talaga masyadong issue iyon. Talagang ayaw na nila, but I talked to the Japanese government. I pleaded for the assistance of the Japanese government, which they graciously gave, and now we are finalizing the agreement with Sumitomo.

AD: Can you get the Dalian train to run on the MRT?

APT: There is a third party international audit. I would rather reserve my comments on the Dalian until we have officially reacted to it.

AD: But will it be made public, the results of the audit?

APT: No. That is why I cannot speak about it at this time. Many claim they have a copy. Maybe they have, maybe they don’t. We have and we are really reviewing it point by point, page by page. It is not easy.

AD: It is a horrendously technical subject.

APT: It is very technical.

AD: But bottom line, can those coaches be brought up to standard? That is what everyone wants to know. And, of course, there is the signalling issue.

APT: Yung mga issue na iyan, hindi naman iyan irremediable.

AD: The signalling system, definitely, can be fixed.

APT: Which we have already done with the help of Bombardier. Maganda yung arrangement doon, and Sumitomo is also helping us with that. But there are issues like – is it overweight? If it is overweight, does that substantially prejudice the safety of the passengers and the safety of the unit, the rail? These are the issues. I would rather open my mouth when the official statement is released, siguro within the week.

AD: What is the maximum number of trains you think you can run? Can you increase the capacity to 600 thousand [passengers] a day?

APT: At this time, we are doing 200 to 300 thousand a day because we are limited to, fluctuating, 15 to 16 trains.

AD: I remember when it was 7.

APT: Dati umabot pa ng 5, but now we are doing 16, pinakamataas namin hanggang 18. A lot of things that we have to address. How I wish we can do half a million. Kaya naman iyon, given additional coaches, additional trains, repaired rails, but it has to be a confluence of many things.

AD: How did you manage to get together a team to tackle the maintenance issues? I know this is no joke. I know what Sumitomo had.

APT: (laughing) Unloading ko lang, kaninang umaga, for the last 28 days. Again, it is a door issue. No longer a coach or train issue, but a door issue. Alam mo kasi yung pinto pag pinilit mong buksan yan, at hindi nagsara, titigil yung tren.

AD: Yes, there is an interlock there.

APT: Minsan, no interlock happens because pinipilit ng tao, or sinasandalan. Minsan din may problema talaga sa pinto. Ang problema natin hindi na doon sa signalling, doon sa pinto.

AD: So it is now just that mechanical issue?

APT: Not just that, remember you are dealing with an old system, from coaches to trains, to railways. Na-maintain at na-address namin iyan. Ibig bang sabihin wala nang problema? Like any old trucks that are old and newly repaired, the time will come, may problema ka ulit. And that is why the vigilance of maintenance should always be there. And how do you address the vigilance of maintenance—spare parts! Noon, nag-assume kami wala namang spare parts.

AD: I remember that press release from Busan – o, dumating na yung spare parts, tapos, puro mga lata ng WD40.

APT: Wala, walang spare parts. Ngayong meron nang mga spare parts, is it complete? No. There is a continuing procurement that is being done. Kaya gusto ko nga mayroong service provider na. Biruin mo, 28 days wala akong unloading! That is the longest since 2011. At walang Sumitomo niyan. Kami-kami lang. Kaya lang nagkakasakit kami. Inuubo na lahat kami. Ang bahu-baho doon [at the MRT-3 Depot near Trinoma].

AD: Beyond the current system, are there proponents, are there plans to expand beyond the current system? I mean beyond the MRT 7?

APT: Oo naman. Andito lahat.The Baclaran to Dasmarinas, that is in place, Dasmarinas, Cavite. From Commonwealth to San Jose Bulacan, that is MRT7. Yung una is LRT1. There are a lot of improvements. I am also doing monorail.

AD: Yes. You mentioned that in the papers the other day. You are talking about an inter-urban within a city?

APT: We are going to start with connecting Taguig with Makati.

AD: Essentially, it is an elevated tranvia?

APT: Yes Sir. I am also thinking, kaya lang pilyo itong mga kuwan eh. They

announce it as if it was cable car only. Cable car is a concept that can be reviewed. I was reading a letter from Sec. Cayetano. He already approved for me to sign the ground agreement with the French government to fund the feasibility study for cable car.

AD: Where are the areas they are thinking of?

APT: One in Pasig, from Pasig to Makati. The other is Caticlan – Boracay. The other is La Union-Baguio.

AD: Wow! That is a long haul.

APT: Yeah, but you can position it with a huge parking, instead of cars going there. It reduces carbon footprint. These are the things that we are seriously looking into now. I hope I can have one cable car before I leave.

I was talking with Villar. Sabi ko – Sir, baka gusto nyo exploring yung cable car. [His reply] Mahirap ‘ata iyan. I said, hindi ser, Las Piñas, Parañaque, Alabang. Traffic doon, eh. Wala na tayong madadagdag na kalsada doon eh, puro subdivision na. Then you can connect your two malls together. [His reply] I think I like that.

AD: That is funny. That makes sense. The capacity is limited but it is for intra-urban lang talaga.

APT: Pag ito nakuha mo ito, lahat nung mga tinatanong mo, nandito lahat. You know the annual report…

AD: This must be the first government annual report I have seen in my entire life.

APT: I have two. Barely two years lang. July 2016 to July 2017. Then I have a full 2017. You know the story… I distributed this to the cabinet, January this year. Sabi nila, ang yabang-yabang mo, may annual report ka. Eto ba ay 2016? Hindi ho, 2017. Eh bakit January na? Kasi Sir, ang gawain nung iba, gagawa ng annual report at the end of the year…

AD: Usually May.

APT: Ako, gumagawa ng annual report at the start of the year, so at the end of the year I print the annual report, so I have the annual report. It is all here. All questions you ask. We will die, float or sink with this report. All factual, pati yung mga point to point, pati yung mga sasakyan, lahat nandito.

AD: Great. Congratulations. A very private sector way of thinking of things.

APT: Ganoon ako, eh. Private sector ako, eh. Meron ka bang tinanong kanina na wala dito? Eto yung gusto mong maritime, ‘di ba? Ay yung toll system. Tignan mo yung plano ko dito, boss. There are three operators. Do you know that the toll system actually causes delay? Kasi multiple. So I have made them agree to agree to a unified toll system. Ang problema ko na lang, as we speak, ay yung cash portion, but I think we can handle that in the next three months.

What is the short-term, or medium term objective for a unified toll system? Para isa na lang, wala na pila-pila masyado. Walang pabago bago. The other is in three years, ang dream ko, wala nang toll booth. Lakad ka na lang nang lakad. Kinukuhanan ka na lang ng picture ng RFID.

We are now doing the construction on the common station. Away-away dati iyang mga iyan. May mga demanda pa sila sa Supreme Court.

AD: Yeah, SM and Ayala.

APT: Napagbati-bati ko sila. How we are able to do it, I don’t know. Maybe they have so much faith in Pres. Duterte. You know, what is not told about the Department of Transportation, that is not in our prime objective? We are one of the primary revenue generators for the government.

AD: I had no idea. I was thinking BIR and Customs. How are you able to?

APT: We are third.

AD: You’re kidding?

APT: 25 billion pesos.

AD: How the hell?! Where did that money come from?

APT: From LTO, Maritime, Toll Regulatory. Do you know, that for this year, I will be declaring, for the first time, CAAP is giving a dividend of 3.2 billion. PPA will be paying P3.1 billion. NAIA will be paying P1.2 billion. Between the three of them, P9 billion.

You know, what is not told about the Department of Transportation, that is not in our prime objective? We are one of the primary revenue generators for the government.

AD: That used to be subsidized by the government.

APT: So it is like Clark before. Negative. I came in. It became positive. We pay dividends and people in government ask me – how come you got this revenue? How come in the past they did not? I answered, Sir I can only answer for my term. You ask the others about their term in the past administrations. Of course you know about Lucio Tan, ‘di ba? He paid P6 billion in arrears. They never paid before. Sabi nila, give documents. Sabi ko, alam naman natin na yung mga dokumento wala na eh. Yung libro eto ho yung utang ninyo. Pwede ho ba magbayad kayo? You have to convince us… Eh, ‘di sinumbong ko sa Presidente. In-announce ng Presidente – magbayad kayo. Eh, ‘di, nagbayad sila.

APT: Yes Sir. Gusto mong bigyan kita ng scoop? Lahat ng nagtatrabaho dito, four days work week. Their weekend is either Friday-Saturday-Sunday or Saturday-Sunday-Monday. We determine who, then we change in 6 months. You know, by doing that, you are actually a tourist. I have actually planted the seeds for domestic tourism. Sabihin mo kay Madame Romulo-Puyat iyan. Ako lang ang gumawa niyan sa civil service. I give them free shuttle. Matitigas lang ulo ng mga tao eh. Ako, mas matigas ang ulo ko. [To publisher Olivia Limpe-Aw] He knows my management style, ma’am.

AD: All too well.

APT: Nothing has changed. Noon nanununtok pa ako, eh. Ngayon, hindi na ako pwedeng manuntok eh. Matanda na ko eh. Kung gusto mo tawagin ko ang secretary ko eh, sabihin ko sa iyo, para i-kwento nila. Sometimes hindi mawala yun. Sa Delgado noon, sa Transnational. Nambabato ako noon, eh. If you give me papers that are not deserving of my desk, I put it in the waste basket. Duduraan ko pa yan para mahirapan kang kunin yun.

I waived my intelligence fund. That is around P5 million. I waived that, from the first time I assumed. I don’t charge my representation expenses. I don’t have back-up. May security ba ako? Kung oras ko, oras ko. Tirahin ninyo ako. Siguraduhin mo lang na may mangyayari sa akin. ‘Pag wala, yayariin kita. You know me. I don’t charge. I have been advised to get a regular shuttle. I don’t like. Miss, halika. Ikaw ang sekretarya ko. Binabato ba kita?

Shot by Rafael A. S. G. Ongpin on Kodak Tri-X, with a 1957 Nikon S2 rangefinder, Nikkor S.C. 50mm ƒ1.4 lens, film processed and scanned by Fotofabrik Foto.

If you give me papers that are not deserving of my desk, I put it in the waste basket. Duduraan ko pa yan para mahirapan kang kunin yun.

Secretary: Sir, stapler, phone. Kung ano ang madampot ng kamay mo.

APT: Kailangan mabilis kang umilag.

AD: [Laughing, to secretary] That is why you keep his desk clear, ano, para walang objects na maibabato niya.

APT: This morning, when I arrived, before 7, from there to here. I closed the door. I just have my coffee at Starbucks. Wala pang tao dito. Wala pa sila. When she arrived, one-half [of my papers] finished, then she will buy me my breakfast snack, which is a sandwich. Just a sandwich from Starbucks. Ano yung paborito ko doon?

SECRETARY: Yung Salmon Dill.

APT: No one should talk to me. No one should come in, except when I call. Pinakamatagal ang papel sa akin para lumabas is three days. I hope I can make it one day. That is my habit. Friday, I require all my people: Clean-up day. Before you go on your weekend, lahat ng papel sa mesa mo, sa mga undersecretaries, kailangan tapos, and I inspect.

AD: Yeah. I remember after I left TDG, you implemented that ISO thing, ‘diba? Kailangan clear yung desk.

APT: I inspect. In other words, no door should be locked, when I work on a weekend. Pag ano ako diyan, puntahan ko yung opisina mo, tignan ko yung kuwan. Pag merong mga papel diyan na matagal, papatawag kita. Kung nasa bahay ka pumunta ka dito sa opisina. Murahin kita.

AD: How are your undersecretaries and assistant secretaries? Do you like your team?

APT: Siempre, hindi. Hindi sila sanay sa ganyan eh. Magkakasakit sila sa akin. ‘Ka ko, ‘bakit kayo mamamatay sa nerbyos sa akin, eh mag-isa lang ako. Kayo, trenta.

AD: You have 30 undersecretaries?

APT: Hindi naman. I have six undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, directors. Pare, I handle more thatn 12 agencies, including the Coast Guard. Now tell me, when am I going to be able to finish all those papers? I have to devote extra time.

AD: Do you still get to spend time with your grandchildren?

APT: Ah, non-negotiable iyan.

AD: How many do you have now, five?

APT: Is that a trick question? [Laughs] I have 6, going 7. Meron akong college sa Pennsylvania, engineering. Matatalino sila, mana sa…

OLA: Mana sa lolo.

APT: Hindi, siempre sa akin. They are also good looking, mana sa nanay. Imagine kung nakuha nila mukha ko, at utak nung nanay, problem.

AD: So which of your kids are now involved in the business?

APT: All of them.

AD: Do they operate collegially or do they have a hierarchy?

APT: Basically, separate but on some issues, collegially. Especially on matters that involve substantial amounts, kasi kanila naman lahat iyon. Hinati-hati ko na.

Ngayon, when I interact with my children, ibang iba. Kasi, of course noong umpisa ayokong mag let go. Kasi, kaya ba ng mga anak ko? Later on, na-realize ko, kung hindi ako maniniwala sa anak, sino pang maniniwala sa kanila? Dumiskarte ka, habang nandidito pa ako. Don’t keep on consulting me. Mas magaling silang negosyante kaysa sa akin. How do you know? Eh mas malaki ang kita eh. Ever since six or seven years ago. I just had 12 people when we started, now we have 700 people.

When my children get married, I give them a house and lot in Alabang. I think you know that.

AD: Yeah. Are they all married?

APT: Oo. Kumpleto na nga, eh. Wala na silang bibilhin. May refrigerator na, may auto na. Kasi, growing up I realized the hard way na yung bahay ang pinaka mahirap ipundar at pinaka-importante. So I thought, when they get married, I don’t give them the option or liberty. Kung ibigay mo pera, baka walang mangyari doon. House and lot. Nasa pangalan na nila lahat iyon. Kaya they are all in Ayala Alabang. Pero naisahan ko sila, eh. Kasi lahat nasa Alabang, so when I need my apo, I just call them, at sasabihin ko sa driver – sunduin mo nga sila. Imagine kung nasa QC iyan.

Kapag ako, hindi binigyan ng allowance ngayon, patay ako. Buti nang patayin ako ng anak ko kaysa patayin ako ng iba. Pero mababait naman ang mga anak ko. Paano ako mabubuhay dito kung hindi nila i-absorb ibang expenses? Sabi ko nga sa iyo, Apa, it is no longer the money. It is the memory, legacy, the paying back. That is correct. Sinasabi ko sa anak ko iyan. Noon, I have given you money, I’ve given you memory. Now, I want to give you a name.


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