What would you define as government and public services in the Philippines? The obvious answer would be things like water and electricity. The not-so-obvious answer would include residential telephone services and other services that are necessary for the majority of the public (and sometimes a minority of the public). Services do not have to be government-run or government-owned in order to be considered public services.
What follows are a few my experiences and observations while residing in Olongapo City, Philippines.
When I was deployed here with the US military in the early 1980s, there were brownouts almost every day. Brownouts are still a fact of life here in the Philippines and rarely does a week go by without at least one brownout occurring. I read somewhere that the local power plant is considered modern. Modern by what standards?
The Philippine Utility Department (PUD) has shut off power for periods of a few minutes to hours at a time, without rhyme or reason. The short outages seem to be taken well by most residents, including me. Everyone complains, as they should, when they last for more than an hour. Any power outage for more than just a few minutes will usually result in a water outage as well. Even after the electricity service is restored, it can take another 30 minutes or more for the water supply to return to normal.
The water distribution here is controlled by the Subic Water & Sewerage Company based at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, adjacent to Olongapo City. They do the same thing as PUD, except with the water supply, by turning off water at any given time without rhyme or reason. This is in addition to the outages that coincide with the power outages.
Back in the 1980s, I noticed that most people shared community wells. I don’t see too many of them anymore — most people are relying on the municipal water supply. Of course, many complaints are lodged when unscheduled outages last 12 hours or more.
I don’t know anything about the local mail service (local to local mail) because I never receive any. The utility companies hand-deliver the monthly bills.
International mail is horrible. Regular 1st Class mail from outside of the country can take up to 3 months to arrive, if it arrives at all. Most of the people I know use FedEx and other services to receive mail from the US, even though it’s much more expensive. I haven’t heard of a lost FedEx letter in the time I’ve been here.
In the US, the regular mail service was privatized years ago. The service improved seemingly overnight. I wonder if privatization is even a viable option for the Philippines.
Residential Telephone Service
Residential telephone service is a public service required by people like me — people who have to have the service in order to have an Internet connection. In a lot of areas locally, DSL and prepaid dial-up cards are the only options available.
On two separate occasions, I suffered 24-hour periods in which I had no dial tone. A call to the telephone company’s trouble desk didn’t seem to speed up the restoration of service. Each time, they could not tell me why I lost the dial tone in the first place.
More and more people are getting connected at their homes instead of at Internet cafes. It’s only natural to consider Internet service as another necessary public service.
I’ve had my share of troubles with poor technical support and so have many others. In December of 2006, I had no broadband service for a period of time due to the earthquake near Taiwan. It’s probably the only time that a lack of service was justified. On another occasion, I didn’t have Internet service for 24 hours because someone cut through the fiber optic line in the city — and it took them 22 of those hours just to find the cut.
There isn’t a lack of transportation services in Olongapo City, or anywhere in the Philippines that I know of. In fact, there are so many jeepneys, tricycles, buses and taxis (but no local taxis that I’ve seen) that it’s annoying. It’s sometimes impossible to pass them when they’re going extremely slow due to the heavy traffic coming from the opposite direction. Never mind the level of noise — it doesn’t decrease until you get out of the downtown areas.
Airline services continue to improve. Philippine Airlines by itself has more flights than it ever had before and they have daily flights to the US. Busing services are on the rise as well. I see buses all over the place.
I have to save for a few more months, but I plan to overcome at least a couple of the deficiencies I’ve mentioned. I plan to get a backup generator, automatic if possible, for the brownout periods and a gravity tank for water storage for the water outage periods.
I have a pressure tank for the water, which is useless, but I won’t get into that right now. A gravity tank is a much better idea.
I’ve been told by the cable company (Colorview) that cable Internet should be available in my area sometime next year. I’ve heard that song and dance before, but I’m being optimistic in believing them this time.
It may seem that I’m saying that the government and public services in the Philippines are poor all the time, but it’s simply not true. Weeks and even months can go by without anything unusual happening. It’s just that when it does, it seems to happen frequently for weeks at a time.
So… when the service is good, it’s really good and when the service is bad, it’s really bad. There isn’t any middle ground.