PHLPost: Staying relevant in the age of electronic communication

by Psyche Roxas-Mendoza

At no time has the power of man to communicate been this fast and pervasive. Latest figures supplied by the global conversation agency We are Social show that there are now more than four billion out of 7.6 billion people around the world using the internet.

Data from GlobalWindex shows that the average person uses the internet and internet-powered devices and services for a good six hours each day, roughly one-third of an individual’s conscious life.

In 2016, internet users in the Philippines numbered 44.47 million or 43.5% of the country’s 102 million population.

The internet has made possible access to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, with the average Filipino social media user spending almost four hours a day going online.

Of course, it is a fact that the Philippines is still struggling to get its act together in achieving competitive internet connection speeds, staying at the lower end of the scale, with an average connection speed at below 3Mbps.

Still, more and more Filipinos in and out of the country are switching to electronic communication. Messages are sent and received via email, the social media and mobile phones.

In 2017, Statista, the Statistics Portal, pegged the number of smartphone users in the Philippines at 30.4 million or around 32% of the total Philippine population. The number is expected to reach 40% by year 2021.

And as newer and better electronic communication technology surges ahead, it is expected that old and less competitive communication structures might have to give way—the way the pager surrendered to the mobile phone.

Unless existing communication systems adapt and think of ways to stay relevant.

Philippines Graphic exercised the power of the electronic media and had an online interview with Postmaster General Joel Otarra of the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) to check on the status and directions of the country’s more than 250-year-old postal service system.

Postmaster General Joel Otarra

A former priest, Otarra was appointed first as Member of the Board of Directors of PHLPost in 2011 and then appointed as a Postmaster General and CEO in December 2016 by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

He took up Economics at  the Asian Social Institute and Theology at St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary, Davao City and Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at Notre Dame of Marbel University, Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

In the age of the computer, the internet, the mobile phone, the DHL and the LBC, how has the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) re-engineered itself to stay relevant in the midst of technological advances in communication technology?

When I came in, I saw a lot of opportunities where PHLPost can really excel, not just in delivering letters or traditional mails but in areas of logistics development and e-commerce. Let us admit that, with the advancement of technology, younger generations are more optimistic, enterprising and ambitious. There are a lot of options where we could harness this technology with just a tip of the finger.  The postal service is 250 years old. It was introduced by the Spanish colonizers in the Philippines as a means of sending important information or communications. Today, we would say that communication is still vital in today’s ever changing world, from commerce and trade, media, finance etc.

PHLPost is still a sunrise industry. It has a potential, especially in the delivery of goods and payment services in the online market. The deregulation of the postal industry opened the door to private entities offering services similar to the postal service. One way to compete with these big players is for the PHLPost to invest in technology to compete with other providers. All over the world services of letters are gradually losing their social significance and the key factor now is to develop the online market.

What services does the PHLPost offer to the public? Does it still transmit mails or has the bulk of its services shifted to parcel/package deliveries? What is the percentage of mails as compared to parcel/package deliveries?

PHLPost has the manpower and the network capability to deliver your mails , goods and payment services anywhere in the country. We have the largest network of postal administrations anywhere in the world. PHLPost is a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players. We are now focusing in four growth areas namely:

Former President Fidel V. Ramos with Postmaster General Joel Otarra

MAIL SERVICES  This accounts for 84% of the profit. It includes business mails coming from banks, government, direct mail companies, and the corporate sector. PHLPost also processes and delivers  parcels and express mail items basically because of the increasing populations of Filipinos abroad;

LOGISTICS AND WAREHOUSE SERVICES  This takes a visible share in the corporate revenue pie. Major clients are mostly government agencies corresponding to the target market for this new service. PHLPost is also positioning itself as a community service provider by offering distribution and storage services (electoral equipment, medication for some 1,714 rural health centers, as well as equipment and supplies for regional government centers).

PAYMENT SERVICES  PHLPost has established the electronic postal money order service facility (E-PMO) to selected postal offices nationwide, offering online money remittance payments. In 2014, PHLPost partnered with other countries through the Eurogiro Payment Network catering to Filipinos abroad. It is also establishing itself as a key player in promotion and inclusion serving as a relay for—the UN World Food Programme, allocating  provisions  to victims of typhoon Haiyan; Save the Children, allocating cash subsidies to children in the southern Philippines; and the International Committee of the Red Cross, providing assistance to victims in the southern Philippines. In addition, the migration from laminated card-type to secured/biographic/biometric-based postal ID generates additional revenue for the corporation.

What is your system in delivering parcels/packages?

We process incoming and outgoing mails and parcels at our Central Mail Exchange Center (CMEC) facility located near the airport in Pasay City while all sea mails and parcels are processed at our Surface Mail Exchange Department located at North Harbor Manila.

How many stations does PHLPost have?

PHLPost has more than 1,300 post offices and postal stations scattered all over the country and an active member of 192 postal administration countries under the Universal Postal Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations. It has negotiated in the establishment of additional postal counters in malls and commercial centers offering postal services.

What other new services are being developed by the PHLPost to stay relevant?

We are now developing a culture of ‘customer-centric’ corporation. We deal with what the market wants and what the markets need.

We are in the process of improving our operational efficiency and strengthening our market position for Express Delivery, government delivery requirements, logistics and payment services through exponential market expansion in E-commerce and cross border distribution.

First, in cross border, we consider the delivery of goods as part of the over-all e-commerce experience. The increase in volume of parcels from other countries will help create successful, sustainable mail businesses for the postal service.

Second, we will work hard to uphold postal service integrity through efficient customer service, including the track and trace system which is now operational.

Third, is to establish e-government centers in post offices all over the country. This is in line with the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of President Duterte administration to increase competitiveness and the ease of doing business in government. This will reduce cost of compliance for people and generate savings.

ASEANPost handshake in Manila. Postmaster General and CEO Joel L. Otarra (7th from left) joins other ASEAN Postal leaders on stage for a group photo and traditional handshake at the closing of the 24th ASEAN Postal Business Meeting (ASEANPost)  in Manila.

As a matter of fact, recently, the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has forged a Memorandum of Agreement pertaining to the establishment of NBI Satellite Office at Manila Central Post Office Building to serve as NBI Clearance processing site.

The NBI-PHLPost project is the first step towards de-clogging the long lines, obtained clearances and government documents faster for the convenience of the public.

What do you envision for PhlPost in the years to come?

To develop technology-driven modern postal counters, facilities and automated sorting processes for mails and goods that passes through the post. G




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