March 2, 2021

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Virtual support for water utility concerns launched in the Philippines

In less than a year, the new normal has ushered in several years’ worth of innovation. Remote workstations have replaced the physical workplace, and office meetings are now held through online video conference calls. This is the scenario in many enterprises that have embraced the changing norms brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the public sector, governments are constantly on their toes while looking for innovative tools to help revolutionise their existing work blueprints. Digitalisation has shifted from being a mere buzzword to a reality that needs to be achieved. Accelerating towards digital transformation is the top priority for most economies looking at fostering recovery from the impacts of the pandemic while still maintaining the right balance of governance and transparency in dealing with the increased demands of the public. 

In the Philippines, several key initiatives have been launched to mitigate economic challenges. According to an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the government announced it is injecting more funding this year in the National Broadband Programme (NBP) spearheaded by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The NBP is the flagship project of the department which aims to improve internet connectivity in the country, particularly in remote areas. 

In line with such government efforts, government-owned and controlled Davao City Water District (DCWD) said in a media release that it is doing away with physical transactions and is leaning towards the adoption of online services to promote ease in doing business within the locality. 

The DCWD said it has adopted virtual chat support services to respond to customers’ queries on their billings. The service is available 24 hours and seven days a week to cater to the public’s needs, particularly regarding their Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) instalment bills. 

DCWD Spokesperson JC Duhaylungsod said that instead of sharing their concerns in private groups in social media where there is no participation of DCWD employees, consumers should talk about their concerns directly in the DCWD’s Facebook account. She added: “Just go straight to our Facebook page, we can immediately give the transaction record. We can explain where the payment went and if there are ECQ instalments remaining.” 

The water utility’s spokesperson clarified that once concerns have been raised and the DCWD finds irregularities in billing amounts, it will automatically make a report to be endorsed to the appropriate departments. 

For other concerns, the DCWD mentioned that customers may contact the department’s call centre via their landline and mobile phones. 

This programme comes after the DCWD suspended its billing collections and offered a staggered payment scheme called ECQ instalments. The initiative was a form of assistance to households within the area from March to May last year when the government placed several parts of the country under community quarantine to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

During this period, meter reading operations were suspended and as a result, the DCWD began to apply average consumption percentages in water bills. The three-month ECQ billing was spread into six instalments, each one added to water bills from July to December last year. 

The DCWD spokesperson noted that: “since it is already January 2021 and the instalment term is completed, we are reminding those still with a balance in ECQ instalments to settle on or before the due date of their December billing to avoid penalties in their ECQ instalments.” 

The water utility has earlier informed the public that those who are interested in availing their services may choose to submit their applications online by downloading and filling out a form available on their website and social media account. They can also browse through a list of requirements that need to be presented once they apply. 

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