Thursday, February 19, 2009

Memoirs ni Manoy by EVCabrera - Part 4 of 5

The NSC Years

1980 to 1990:
I consider this decade as the best and happiest in NSC history.

In the later part of 1980, Mr. Jose Ben Laraya (JBL) took over the management of the National Steel Corporation. We in the lower management were interested and thrilled with the new name JBL. In my first presentation that I made to JBL which was related to power distributions equipment, I was ‘knocked-out’ in less than one minute because I couldn’t answer his question. I froze and when nobody in higher rank could bail me out I courteously said “I am very sorry, Sir, I cannot answer that question”. It was in the fourth presentation after a series of two more ‘knock-outs’ that I got my presentation fully approved. Of course, after Ms. Malou LeaƱo had helped me thru the instruction of JBL.

JBL’s general policy was decentralization of authority and responsibility - meaning you are authorized and accountable. Monitoring and control instruments were placed for effective top management. This was very good for us as far as I was concerned because it felt like I was really running and managing a business within a big business. If you are honest to yourself and you love your most precious name, even if you were a “suberbiyo” in which I admit I still am today, and with this policy which involves trust and confidence, I thought there was no room for failure.

Well, everybody who was once an NSC citizen knows that during JBL’s watch, NSC grew from a 300,000-tons-per-yr to a 2,000,000-tons-per-yr steel complex. But this was done through teamwork where members of the top management team were as follows (as far as I can remember): Messrs. Rolando Narciso, Jose Amante Jr., Manuel Sabalburo, Felipe Calderon, Antonio Valera, Policarpo Benitez, Joe Robles, Fred Ballesteros, Sixto Belen, Benito Mauricio, and the rest of middle managers from Iligan plant, Pasig plant and Makati head office.

As we progressed towards abundance, JBL instituted the Five-Year Expansion Program (FYEP). I was fortunate enough to be selected as part of this most ambitious undertaking. At this moment let me express my heartfelt thanks to a man which I consider as my second father and mentor Mr. Licerio E. Gedalanga “Sir, I salute you”. He is a man that is strict in standard setting but if, as I said, you are honest to yourself and hard working there is no room for failure to pass the requirements of this good man. I think ‘ang pinaka-suerte nga tawo ning kalibutana walay lain kon dili si Sanoy Suerte will readily agree with me. Dili ba, Sany Boy?’

For this FYEP, I was transferred to Makati head office under the office of Mr. Jose M. Amante Jr. (JMA) and was directly under the supervision of Mr.Licerio E. Gedalanga (LEG). We had the United States Steel Engineers as our consultants in this undertaking. My partners were Mr. Ralph Hammerstrom for rolling mills electrical equipment and related controllers and regulators, and Mr. Cecil Quintanales for high tension equipment and the related power distribution systems design. Mr. Manuel Sabalburo instructed me to be directly involved with the Pasig plant and communicate daily with Roland Narciso the electrical systems engineer at that time, over and above my responsibility on FYEP.

The progress of FYEP went very smoothly and the clearing and preparation of plant site in Iligan was managed by Mr. Topit Sanedrin. The whole community of Iligan was happy and very hopeful for the future. Everything was already in place and all is done such that the Japanese consortium of contractors, MARUBINE was ready to be mobilized. Unfortunately, on a Sunday afternoon in August 21, 1983, Ninoy Aquino was shot and killed as he arrived on a plane from Japan. Knowing this, LEG immediately said “Naluko na. Hindi matutuloy ang project na ‘to” That statement rang into my ears in disbelief. It turned out to be true when shortly the Japanese consortium spokesperson told us that they would temporarily suspend the mobilization for further study. ‘Sukad niadto ang mga Hapon nawala sama sa usa ka bula.’

The FYEP team and consultants were transferred to Iligan. We continued with the study of installing the 5 Stand Tandem Cold Reduction Mill, Pickling Line # 2, 2-Stand Temper Mill, New Electrolytic Tinning Line (because the Ferrous Stand ETL was transferred to Pasig), Billet Steelmaking Plant, and Hot Rolling Mill # 2. Another study was in place for the expansion of Batch Annealing Furnaces by using the dismantled Pasig Plant Annealing Furnaces and that of Southern Star Steel of Cortes, Bohol.

Before JBL had tendered his resignation in 1989 all those projects that I mentioned above were already operational with the exception of Hot Rolling Mill # 2 which was in construction and installation phase.

Mr. RS Narciso (RSN) took over the presidency in 1989 with Dr. Antonio Arizabal as Vice Chairman of the board. At this time, I did not really know what was happening on the top echelon of NSC although at the Iligan plant we still continued the undertakings of FYEP.

In 1993, we conducted the final guarantee run of Hot Mill # 2 where we were able to hit the guaranteed capacity and produced 98,700 tons of hot rolled coils.

Then came the privatization of NSC. The new owner, Weng Tiek took over the management sometime in 1995. In the beginning I was very hopeful of this new direction because of the plenty promises given to us by the new owner. The new President was Mr. William Leong - a good soft-spoken man as I have observed him during our one in one conversation.

Then the unexpected happened when I heard that RSN was already out of NSC. For me if I was a businessman and had invested multi-billion pesos, I should have retained him as a consultant even for just a year or two. He is a man who is very knowledgeable of NSC and at least this will secure the direction of the new management team. Then another curious thing happened. 500,000 tons of slab were purchased and stored in our slab yard which I thought was very abnormal.

With all these happening, I decided to avail of the announced “golden handshake” by Dato Chiong. I talked to Mr. William Leong about this matter. Hence at 56 years old, I retired my services from my most beloved NSC. By then, I became the most transferred man from 1989 up to April 26, 1996. Up to my exit, I was re-assigned in almost all areas: Maintenance of Billet Steelmaking Plant, Central Engineering, Maintenance of Cold Rolling Mills, Hot Rolling Mill # 1 Operations, back to Billet Steel Making Plant Operations and finally back to Hot Mill # 2 check out and commissioning and Operations (with exceptions to Infirmary and Finance areas).

Part 5 - Life After NSC

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