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Preserving energy reserves for the future

As published on ManilaBulletin

‘With all the natural calamities happening in this country, I think it is about time we raise awareness and pitch in on how we can mitigate the effects of climate change.’

Gladys Navarette Nalda has taken responsibility of a corporation in the business of extracting a non-depletable source of energy, and thus be part of a solution to an irrefutable problem of limited – as opposed to solar, wind and geothermal – power from coal reserves.

And she’s undaunted by the immense job, this under-40, former executive of government-controlled Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC).

Nalda, as President and CEO of MRC Allied, Inc., a listed company engaged in property, mining and now renewable energy or RE, is predisposed to head an RE-focused endeavor as someone with expert skills in the sector, having worked as legal counsel for the Department of Energy prior her PNOC stint.

Nalda said choosing this path has been fitting and rewarding, and she looks forward to what the MRC group can contribute to this country’s RE future. As a corporate lawyer, she’s well-versed in energy laws, its policies and practices, learned from her years as a student of the University of the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas and the University of Strasbourg in France.

RE warrior

One could assume, given her line of work, that Nalda is deeply appreciative of the planet she lives in, and exists on. She takes care of nature and the environment, and protects its nurturing resources not only legally as a lawyer, but as a business woman pursuing her team’s ecological-enhancing RE projects.

Not surprisingly, she loves to travel the world, above all non-work pursuits. Perhaps it’s inculcated in her as a child to have this much respect for the environment. “I looked up to my parents,” she said. “They have the biggest influence on my values, principles, and even ideas.”

Respect for the planet includes respect for all life forms, not just because RE is the in thing. In her work, motivating the right group of people to have the same values is a challenge.

Nalda is up to the challenge. She said the “opportunity to inspire people, influence events and initiate change around you” is why she gets up in the morning and go to work. “When you are in a position where certain groups of people look up to you for advise, guidance or even a decision, it gives you a sense of fulfillment when you see your ideas come to life or when your recommendations are being implemented.”

Another challenge is time, do they have enough of it, how to spend it without wasting it. “What I do is crazy (on the) schedule. But, of course, when you have learned to set your priorities right, even the most hectic schedules can be managed with ease.”

Still, Nalda finds time to experience the world and its people. Off work, she travels. A lot. “I am one of those people who like to spend more on experiences, rather than on material possessions.”

She finds even more time for family, she said. “A typical weekend means either a road trip or relaxation with family and friends.”

Had she taken a different path and decided not to become a corporate-energy-guru lawyer, she’d happily write a travelogue as a profession. “It would be cool if I were a travel blogger. I would just travel the world and write about my adventures,” she remarked.

“I believe that the shift from being a litigation lawyer to a corporate lawyer engaged in RE was a deliberate choice on my part,” Nalda said. “The pursuit of a cleaner and greener environment is something very personal to me – considering I come from a province hit hard by super-typhoon Yolanda.”

The provincial capital of Leyte, Tacloban, where she hails from, was devastated by the worst super typhoon in the history of tropical cyclones, on November 8, 2013. Two years later, Pope Francis visited Tacloban and held mass for tens of thousands of people.

“With all the natural calamities happening in this country, I think it is about time we raise awareness and pitch in on how we can mitigate the effects of climate change,” she said.

Goals, challenges as CEO

MRC Allied, established as a corporation in 1990, is primarily a property developer which later diversified into mining operations. In 2015, the company made another milestone shift and ventured into the RE sector. It set up a subsidiary, Menlo Renewable Energy Corp., which is now developing a 60-megawatt solar project in Naga City, Cebu. Another 100-megawatt project is ongoing in Clark, Pampanga.

Overtime, Nalda said they will produce 1,000-megawatt of “clean and renewable power” by 2022.

“The current thrust of MRC is to aggressively pursue the development, construction and operation of RE projects within the country,” according to Nalda.

She added that at this moment, they are focused on the home soil and no immediate plans to set up similar projects outside of the Philippines.

“The renewable energy industry in this country is just starting to take off,” Nalda said. “But with the rising demand for clean power, the firm commitment to mitigate climate change, and the strong support from the government, I am quite positive that investments in renewable energy will significantly grow over the next few years.”

Nalda said she is enlivened by her current work and potential for growth, and consider it advantageous that she was at the right place and at the right time when MRC Allied came calling.

“Personally, I am excited about the transition of MRC from a property development and mining company, into a renewable energy company. Under my watch, the plan is to develop at least 1,000-megawatt of clean and renewable power by 2022. The target is at least 200 megawatts per year.”

For 2017, the company has laid the groundwork to produce 160-megawatt of RE power. “Both (Cebu and Pampanga projects) are in their pre-development phase” Nalda said.

She added: “In terms of the energy sector, I am hopeful that the government will be more aggressive in laying down the appropriate policies to help expedite the development and construction of power projects in this country. But I think this is more of an appeal to the government as an industry player rather an actual challenge.”

‘Win first… then go to war’ – Sun Tzu

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” This ancient Chinese “Master of the Sun” is her constant reminder of life and battles: Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”

An individual’s first battle – and every day at that – of his/her life is the battle within himself/herself, to unite the yin and yang if they are strong enough, and making for a coherent, whole being.

For Nalda – who was maybe weaned on Star Wars and probably awaits the return of Game of Thrones (GOT) every year very impatiently, and no doubt dreading the last two seasons of the TV version of A Song of Ice and Fire book series – that’s as easy and as complicated as every nerve-wracking episode of GOT but she wins the day – bet on it – like the Skywalkers.

But why Star Wars? “It’s actually hard to choose just one film because I enjoy watching movies,” she said.

Nalda picked the George Lucas original as an all-time great for its “action and fantasy plots” and she gamely admitted these movies are “escapes from reality.” “I am a big fan of the Star Wars franchise films in the big screen. And I am also a big fan of Game of Thrones series in the small screen,” she said.

And there’s the “The Art of War” which she thinks is “very informative.” When she’s not strategizing on how better to know the enemy (could also refer to her work challenges) better than knowing herself (or her own goals), Nalda absorbs literature on travel, sports, cooking and books about self-help.

She’s not really into military strategizing, she’s in fact a fan of Pope Francis. “I think he is cool because he is a revolutionary pope and a progressive leader.”

Nalda abhors “selfish and corrupt” persons. Based on her personal advocacy, she has a healthy dislike of unscrupulous people who will victimize children. This was simply despicable in her book.

“I want to put up a foundation that will help street children or juvenile delinquents,” she said. “I want to be able to help neglected young people grow and become valuable citizens of this country. It would be nice to know you are a part of a legacy – something that will outlive you.”

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