FROM time to time, a reader will contact me to ask for help resolving a problem; although this is not my favorite part of the job, the rather privileged position I have carries with it some responsibility, as I see it, and so I do my best to be of service. If I was like some entire families of “media personalities” who have figured out how to profit handsomely from doing exactly the same thing, I’d probably find a way to bill somebody for it, but I apparently learned the definition of “value-added” from a dictionary that is not in general circulation here.
One such problem that landed in my inbox within the past couple of weeks involves mail delivery – or more to the point, the lack of delivery – in and around Bacolod City. According to my correspondent, mail deliveries, if they are made at all, have been taking between five and 10 months, even for domestic mail. This has obviously posed some difficulties for customers; this being the 21st century, people only rely on the mail for things that cannot be delivered by other means, such as replacement ATM or credit cards, or tax documents that require a physical copy.
The customer’s own attempts to solve the problem have been futile. “Checking PHLPost official web page does not provide any information, calling the numbers listed no help, the PHLPost Facebook account is apparently being answered by a bot program,” he explained in his email. “Asking at the local post office gets the always helpful, ‘Check next week, we are prioritiz[ing] parcels,’ or ‘we emailed the main office but they never responded.’ Yeah, tell me about it.”
PHLPost is the Philippine Postal Corp.
A bit of investigation into how extensive the delivery problems may be suggested that Bacolod is a particular hotspot of failure for PHLPost; there were a number of complaints from other areas, but not more than I would expect to hear under ordinary circumstances.
Further inquiries yielded no more substantial answers than were already given to the customer; the Bacolod Post Office passed the buck to the PHLPost main office, which simply suggested that I “rest assured” it was “making the utmost effort” to clear its pandemic-induced backlog and answer customer concerns.
Ordinarily, we could all regard that as the callous non-answer it usually turns out to be when it comes from a government agency or other public service entity, but to be fair to the people at PHLPost, they may actually mean it this time.
PHLPost has recently undergone a management shake-up, with a new Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Norman N. Fulgencio, being installed last March 15. Fulgencio’s first statement to the public was unusually frank. “To start things right, we sincerely apologize for all our previous delays, unresponsiveness, mishandlings, and other shortcomings,” he said. “We are now revisiting our existing procedures to institute appropriate measures that will be implemented beginning April 5, 2021.” Fulgencio has been as good as his word, so far; most of the customer service staff has been replaced, extra shifts have been added to help clear delivery backlogs, and in Metro Manila, at least, the arcane system of delivering notification cards instead of actual letters or parcels to recipients of registered mail has been eliminated.
While I would like to make the pointed suggestion that PHLPost management look into the specific situation in Bacolod, they should be given credit for acknowledging the post office’s flaws and offering time-bound action steps to begin correcting them. The modern world being what it is, the postal service may be a minor node in the broader communications infrastructure, but it is encouraging that those responsible for it seem to take its role seriously.
The initiative being shown at PHLPost stands in stark contrast to that of the rest of the communications infrastructure and the government authorities responsible for policy and regulation. These various stakeholders have consistently failed to acknowledge the critical importance of useful communications infrastructure in controlling the pandemic and keeping the economy afloat. On the government’s part, this seems to be due to ignorance, but on the part of the major telecoms, deliberate non-competitiveness. The so-called “third telco” will not help the situation. It will take years for it to build up to the level of the lowest common denominator maintained by its two larger counterparts, and will not exceed it once it gets there – such is the nature of the market, unless something changes drastically.