Since March of this year, the SMS updates of Maynilad in terms of their water interruption schedules have been fairly consistent to the point that I have started an excel file to record and understand what has been happening to our water infrastructure as of late. Three months down the road (and with water interruption still ongoing) all these maintenance and repair activities seem to be nothing but a repetitive and vicious cycle with no end in sight.
And now just this week, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) released a bombshell announcement that (surprise, surprise) the Luzon grid is now on yellow/red alert and hence may now implement rotational brownouts to manage the supply.
My dear friends, it is 2021. When can these issues with our utilities stop once and for all and allow the citizenry to enjoy a well-deserved customer experience for basic services such as water, power and internet?
Even if these utilities are privatized, the customer service experience is still not at par with our Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors. It is unheard of in Singapore to have power or water interruption, much less an unstable internet connectivity – these things simply do not exist in Singapore. Yet a 3-hour flight from the Lion City brings you to a country such as ours where interruptions and service degradations are an everyday occurrence.
To add more insult to injury, our Congress has approved House Bill (HB) 78 which allows for 100 percent ownership of public services and utilities. Many perspectives to be appreciated in this regard. The author of the bill, Rep. Sharon Garin explains that “HB 78 would help improve the deplorable state of our public services by giving more leeway for foreign direct investments.”
The bill in fact highlights the challenges of our regulatory agencies to police the utility providers. The outcry is really simple: when can these interruptions stop? Why do we have to live with it? Is it an infrastructure design issue? Do we need more power and water sources to address the supply? Many questions flooding the citizens’ mind yet the communications strategy of the utility providers seems to exclude such answers.
The state of our utilities at this point is still very much poor. Case in point: I’ve experienced these interruptions since young and still continue to do so at this present time. The issues remain to be supply, first and foremost, especially when summer hits (which is a yearly thing) and one wonders: was this not thought of to begin with? Is there any planning of some sort that happens with our utility providers or is it a case of being tactical and reactive as and when a problem arises? Are there any other options available aside from waiting for the rain to pour (in the case of our water issue)?
Reality does bite. In the meantime, make sure you have enough water for pondo and turn off appliances that are not in use – a reminder from both our water and energy companies for some scheduled service interruption. God help us, and may God bless us all.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org