A progressive approach to change and leadership
BY YASHIKA F. TORIB
The Manila Times
Maritime And Logistics
LEADERS, movers and shakers in the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) have come and gone since its inception in 1974. The agency has since undergone major changes with generations of people helping steer it toward progress. Sonia Malaluan was among those who stuck around and witnessed Marina rise from a mere promotional and development agency to becoming the country’s sole maritime administration. She started with Marina as a management and audit analyst toward the end of 1989, a time when shipping and seafaring in the Philippines were flourishing. There was no seafarer in her family, however. When asked what fueled her passion for the sea, she was candid in saying that there was “nothing at all, at first.” What made Malaluan exceptional is her high standards at work. “My passion is for excellence in work. I always give 101 percent on every task that is given to me. I do not stop when I am tired, I only stop when the work is done,” she said. Malaluan is an extremely introverted person, part of the reason why she has a strong focus that is free from the distractions of workplace drama. She is one of the people who prefers to work behind the scenes and out of the limelight. This allows Malaluan to observe people and situations from afar and see things from a wider perspective. Unlike the typical employee who developed a blind allegiance to their organization following decades of association, she chose to see the reality spurred on by time and circumstance. It is from there that she resolves to take on the path of progress. When Marina was inundated with waves of attention and scrutiny following its designation as the sole maritime administration of the Philippines in 2014, Malaluan was not among those who were on the immediate defense. Decades worth of administrative duties with Marina opened her eyes to the seemingly abrupt reluctance and criticism of end users whenever changes are implemented by the agency. She stood by her organization, however, by gearing toward constructive views. “I believe that a transparent and participatory approach can help gain the trust and confidence of our stakeholders when implementing new policies, rules, and regulations. The timely and consistent dissemination of information is also crucial for better understanding and appreciation of the rationale, objectives and benefits of any new policy,” Malaluan said. Nine years after Republic Act 10635 was promulgated and six administrators since, Marina is still swamped with criticisms from seafarers and stakeholders. While she became wary of all the pressure it brings, Malaluan has learned to understand that changes entail higher expectations and criticisms from stakeholders, politicians, the international maritime community and the public. These things do not bother her, though, as much as the self-centered people in her workplace. “The most difficult part of the job is office politics where employees use authority, position or designations for personal agenda or interest,” she disclosed. The hard work, integrity and wisdom she gleaned from her mentors from Marina carried her through 32 years of service to the maritime industry. She was greatly influenced, among others, by the late Paciencio “Boi” Balbon, former deputy administrator Elenita Delgado, directors Ric Romero, Arhleen Romero and Myrna Calag, as well as former administrator Maria Elena Bautista-Horn. “They have demonstrated humility despite their positions/designations, selfless dedication and commitment as public servants, and most importantly professionalism and integrity in the performance of their duties and responsibilities.” Malaluan has occupied top positions in the agency such as OIC-deputy administrator for planning and director of Marina Regional Office-National Capital Region. She played a major role in several Marina organizational changes, including the development and issuance of related implementing policies, rules, and regulations; as well as the crafting of the Marina Roadmap for the development of the country’s domestic shipping industry, as part of the 10-year Maritime Industry Development Program. Last year, she was appointed as the OIC-administrator of Marina. Behind all the professional and respectable persona that her colleagues see, however, is a person who enjoys traveling with a friend or two, caring for her plants, and indulging in photography. “I am also a loyal and generous friend, and a doting lola to my sister’s grandchildren,” she said. “I am passionate about photography and traveling. It helps keep my work-life balance,” she added.