Ariel Nepomuceno — Man of his word

One thing that can be said about Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, the administrator of the Office of Civil Defense of the Department of National Defense, he is results-driven.

Right after graduating from the University of the Philippines, where he received Magna Cum Laude honors, Nepomuceno applied for a Congressional Fellowship program, to which he was accepted. He then became the National Capital Region Youth Representative to the House of Representatives when it reopened in 1987.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF CHRISTIAN MAR BARACENA FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE | (FROM left) Daily Tribune editor-in-chief Gigie Arcilla, Director of the Office of Civil Defense of the Department of National Defense (rank of Undersecretary) Ariel Nepomuceno and Daily Tribune’s executive editor Chito Lozada.

Of his legislative stint, he shared, “It was like we had a mini-Congress for seven months and we, youth representatives, received a salary. I had a seat in the session hall, but we were not allowed to talk. We just observed the proceedings and learned about the whole legislative process.

“It was the House’s way of encouraging us to appreciate democracy. In the end, after those seven months, I realized legislative work was not for me. I am the kind who wants to see results immediately.”

Business mind

Nepomuceno next engaged in business with his friends. “I was always interested in business. We put up a fish pen in Malabon and started with three hectares until we gradually grew and reached the maximum 50 hectares. We got lucky in this venture. We stopped only when a strong typhoon hit the country,” he recounted.

“Next, we put up a trucking or logistics company. Then we organized an insurance company and reinvested our earnings.”

To raise his initial capital, he borrowed from his father and friends. The group assigned him as the general manager.

His first formal job outside of private business was with the Food Terminal. It was in his time when they “initiated its privatization.”

Finally, he ventured in the energy sector. “We put up Orion Energy and developed Liquified Natural Gas or LNG. We linked up with traders in Singapore and the Middle East. On our end, we developed the power plants. At the time I joined the Department of National Defense, we were entering the field of renewable energy by developing solar and offshore wind resources.

Government work

It wasn’t long before he would join the Department of National Defense in 2010.  “I was the Executive Officer of Civil Defense. And then, during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, he aimed to introduce reforms at the Bureau of Customs. I was given a position there along with other generals.

Through it all, he has kept his moral ascendancy. That he was honest in government work, he attributes to his having done well in business, which allowed him economic independence. “Many are tempted to steal or engage in graft and corruption because the salary is too tiny.

“Of course, my ATM card is with my wife,” he said, laughing.

As a manager, he has stuck to “what I learned from my Armed Forces of the Philippines training. I am more on the authoritative side, but I encourage participation.”

He has had to deal with certain issues and problems. “Here at the Office of Civil Defense, I have had to remove the head of Finance.

Photograph Courtesy of Office of Civil Defense

“I came in with an attitude of fairness. Whatever shortcomings or mistakes they had in the past, I overlooked them. I realized that they were just following orders, but when I came in, I made clear I expected everyone to do right.”

It has helped that he acquired his Master in Business Administration at the Asian Institute of Management. He was already 50 years old in 2022 when he received his degree. His experience in business, his love for reading and writing, all have contributed to his continuing success. He is now writing a book where he is sharing his thoughts on possible solutions to the energy crisis.

Family time

When he took his government position, he promised his sons that no matter how busy he is at work, he will take their calls.

Ariel takes time to be with his wife and his two sons. “My boys are now managing our family companies.”

He is a fortunate man. The elder one took up Economics from the University of the Philippines. “Like me,” he said.  “The younger one attended Ateneo, like his mother.”

Both sons are athletic, being enthusiasts of Taekwondo. As a father, he has always thought of himself “as their friend and gangmate. When the father is good, the sons are good,” he shared. “I taught them how to drink. This way, they would know how to manage their drinking and socializing. So, we go out together. We enjoy our glass of wine.”

A favorite father-and-sons haunt is the Peninsula Manila lobby, “also because of the good live music. It is also the time when they open up and share their plans, challenges and accomplishments.” Both sons are bachelors.

With his wife, he loves to drive and visit places. “Recently, we read that the halo-halo in Cavite is good, so we went to Digman. Another time, we drove all the way to Lucban to buy their longganisa.”

Although he has since 1989 become a vegetarian. When driving to work, which he enjoys, “I sing a tune or hum what’s playing, usually piano or violin pieces.”

He is an active member of the Rotary Club in Chinatown. “We conduct medical missions regularly.”

Ariel has reached a level of success that puts a smile on his face. He has done well in his career and in his family life. No, he has not chosen to rest on his laurels. In fact, he is getting ready to pursue his Ph.D in Management. We won’t be surprised if he makes it to the top of his class. It would all be keeping true to his form.