by Ani Montano
Photos by Rey Vida
chance. It's what keeps our fingers crossed as we line up our hopes
for a changed life in a lotto betting station.
on the other hand, is something that awaits us at the other end
of the line, the cumulative outcome of what we do.
September 19, 2012, Orani Water District came face to face with
day, in the hallowed Rizal Ceremonial Hall of Malacañang
Palace, adrenalins of excitement raced through three public servants
as President Benigno S. Aquino III bestowed the district's Operation
and Management Excellence Team with the Civil Service Commission's
"PAGASA" Award (Group Category), an award that the commission
has been conferring to exemplary public servants since 1975.
Team was composed of Orani WD General Manager and Team Leader Benigno
Andres, and team members Administration Division manager Conrado
Buenaventura, Jr. and Technical Division manager Herminigildo Canlas,
Sr., all representing a total regular workforce of only 29 serving
over 8,000 connections. With the team was the water district's board
of directors chaired by Mr. Edmund M. Castañeda, DVM, and
members Ms. Pagasa E. Pascual who sits as Vice-Chairman, Ms. Dorothy
M. Galicia who acts as Secretary, and Ms. Teresa S. Santos.
Benigno Aquino assisted by Civil Service Commission Chairman
Dr. Francisco Duque presents GM Benigno Andres with the "PAGASA"
(Photo courtesy of Orani WD)
what the district had been doing for years - as a matter of practice
-- to up the quality of its water service to the growing Orani community
was now being commended, recognized and praised, and without them
Orani WD has always had something good pointing it towards its mission
of providing the community with "abundant and affordable potable
water with high-quality service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,
52 weeks a year" : an open-minded management and a supportive
board of directors.
what did the Civil Service Commission (CSC) found in Orani WD worthy
of a national award and a presidential presence?
the award's literature, the CSC recognized Orani WD's "commitment
to serve the public better, its good leadership and exemplary management
performance" whose end results showed in operational and financial
highlights such as:
increase in gross income by 175%
96% impressive increase for its Operating Net Income in a span
of 6 years
in service connections by 70% from 5,624 to 8,011 concessioners
decrease in debt equity ratio by 7% because of less borrowing
during the years 2009 and 2010
with respect to return on fixed asset, 8 to 9% net income generated
from the invested capital was maintained which exceeded the 7%
acceptable value of the rate of return based on LWUA standard
increase in total assets of the district by almost 50%
increase in total equity by 35%
also noted that the group has "also shown excellence in cultural,
economic, social, physical, spiritual and environmental preservation."
doing the job
were just doing our job" was what every Orani WD employee this
writer talked to was saying.
"job" was keeping the residents and visitors of this old
community in Bataan (Orani was founded by Spanish Dominican missionaries
in 1587 and became an independent missionary center in 1741) sated
with safe drinking water and a reliable water supply system on a
award was unexpected, unsolicited, a non-target. In today's corporate
jargon, not part of their KRA or key result areas. It should also
be noted that the CSC had taken precautions in their evaluation
process to make certain that nothing but the subject's records and
performance would determine whether Orani WD would get the award
WD's staff: by most definitions, a family
the evaluation period which timetable the CSC kept to itself, an
official from the agency's regional office visited Orani, unannounced
and incognito and, for several days, interviewed town officials
and residents on the operations and quality of service from the
community's water service provider. When water district people learned
of the official's presence much later, they offered to extend the
official their hospitality, something Orani WD extends to its guests
as part of its corporate culture. But the official, this writer
was told, politely declined; he had already done his evaluative
work at the same time.
A lean and coherent group of public servants
WD has a core workforce of twenty-nine (29) men and women distributed
between two divisions: administration and technical.
Benigno "Benni" Andres
WD general manager Benigno Andres, GM Benni to friends and staff
alike, proudly describes his staff this way: "They are all
trained in multi-tasking, and they always deliver." A random
and casual talk with any of his staff mirrors that same description,
that same pride.
29 multi-trained individuals are responsible for that basic comfort
of the community , which seems to have evaded some of Orani's neighbors
in Bataan that the water district had made plans to expand service
to these areas. This lean group services over 8,000 individual water
service connections (as of December 2012) -- a number that routinely
increases -- in 28 of the first-class town's 29 barangays. The first-class
Orani community has close to 60,000 residents living in roughly
11,000 households, says a census done several years back.
chief Hermie Canlas : teamwork works for OWD
Benni explains that his lean organization is able to measure up
to job demands because they are well-trained, motivated and equipped
with the right tools.
motivation, for instance, is unmistakable in Herminigildo S. Canlas,
Sr. He is one of the earlier employees of the district, back in
the days when it was a fledgling institution in the community and
when the idea of treating as a commodity the water that one consumes
was just as strange as the water district concept that brought it
to friends and staff as Hermie, Mr. Canlas rose from his early meter
reading and maintenance post to head Orani WD's Technical Division.
He is an undergraduate and has no qualms talking about it. He once
subscribed to the belief: "kung di graduate, di magagampanan
ang trabaho." But the district equipped this non-engineer with
trainings and exposures to boost his previous technical experiences,
and Hermie absorbed the knowledge like a sponge would soak up water.
GM Benni trusted him, he said, that the division under his leadership
would perform well and it did. "Ang sekreto namin ay teamwork,"
than be wary of the digital age and the fast-paced developments
in IT or information technology, Orani WD's management opted to
avail of its best features that could optimize the water district's
operation and its staff's work.
na kami pang-cellphone lang (We now have gone beyond cellphones),"
quipped one of GM Andres' staff. While said in jest, that statement
had more substance to it than a Philippine noontime show's gags.
Board of Directors
Mr. Edmund Castañeda, DVM
Ms. Pagasa E. Pascual
Dorothy M. Galicia
Teresa S. Santos
starters, the water district began using a customized program for
its billing and collection as early as 1999. While the water district
could not really describe the program and what it expected of it
as a perfect match, Orani WD apparently appreciated its potentials
and, if a better or improved program would be in place, the boost
to the district's quality of service in terms of how efficient its
billing and collection would be perceived by its clients, and the
significant man-hours saved. So management set its eyes on improvement
of the program and system.
by 2003, Orani WD could boast of being the only water district in
the Bataan peninsula to have a fully computerized system.
same year, the district had engaged the services of an IT corporation
familiar with the needs of water districts and electric cooperatives,
among other clients. It also hired an IT specialist "to further
develop the water district core competency in this area." No
longer a newbie in the IT field, the water district went on to explore
other the benefits of the digital age, including an intranet system
that keeps its employees "on line" with each other.
date, Orani WD has embedded into its operations the following IT
: Total Utility Billing System for Billing & Collection using
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) with Printer for on-the-spot
meter reading & billing
: Total Attendance and Administrative Monitoring & Payroll
System with EDS Finger ID System
: Total Works Management for Inventories
TGLS : Total General Ledger Systems for Accounting
In addition, Orani WD has discontinued the use of field collectors
for bill payments and instead has adopted an office collection scheme
using a Point-of-Sale (POS) system allowing real-time and up-to-date
transaction records and account payment. Thus, any Aling Nita or
Mrs. Santos who suddenly remembers she has a water bill to pay as
she happens to pass by the water district office can make that transaction
even if she also happens to have left her billing statement at home.
This convenience has also protected the money payments of the district's
clients and eliminated risks of money collection misuse on the one
hand, and encouraged regular visits by its clients thereby enhancing
client-water district feedback mechanism and direct interaction
of employees with those they are sworn to serve.
acceptance of useful features of the digital age has substantially
contributed to Orani WD's transition into what one can sweetly call
a "platinum period" in its corporate life.
family home cum public service center
would hardly fail to notice, as one enters Orani WD's premises,
the large, silvery shiny letters boldly declaring the building as
"Home of Orani Water District."
to the meaning of "home," those who work within its walls
consider their colleagues as family. A family that does not fall
short of extending a warm smile to clients, guests, even strangers
like this writer, as they step inside that home.
Bernard and Sheila Milante: a radical change of home that was
was this culture of making one pleasantly feel at home that drove
Bernard Milante, the district's IT administrator, to relocate from
Bicol, his home province, to Orani, convince his girlfriend to do
the same, get married, start a family and a new life in Orani. It
was a big move to transform one's life from being a Bicolano to
becoming a Bataanon. To this day, the couple has never regretted
fact is, the water district's activities in implementing its CSR
(corporate social responsibility) program helped in Bernard and
Sheila Milante's integration into the community as much as these
facilitated the community's acceptance of the water district as
part of Orani, not simply as a local business but as a town institution.
WD's presence is not only in the water that residents drink. Nor
is it simply in the monthly bills that they pay. Orani WD is in
the improvement of the economic and social standing of deserving
residents, in the community's celebrations and fun activities, and
in the town's environmental concerns, among others.
A face one with its people
Castañeda (third from left) poses with students --
here seen displaying their diplomas -- who recently graduated
as Orani WD scholars
courtesy of Orani WD)
Orani WD employees display the banner of the banca race (photo
below) the WD helped organize during the recent town fiesta
courtesy of Orani WD)
1998, the district has been awarding scholarships to deserving students
from the community, initially for a one-year secondary education
assistance that the district upgraded in 2008 to a four-year complete
tertiary education scholarship.
fiesta celebrations, that centuries-old Filipino tradition still
religiously and merrily observed in Orani as in all other provincial
communities in the country, Orani WD is also felt by the community
it serves; even allowing itself to be part of the town's fiesta
committee. Last year, they tapped various Orani citizens' as well
as government organizations into joining fiesta activities such
as fun runs and banca races.
beyond the face of an institution breathing with the community,
Orani WD has long been presenting itself as an advocate both of
personal and environmental health. For one, the district has been
sponsoring an annual 3-kilometer, 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer fun
runs to "create a higher level of awareness on the importance
of drinking potable water and maintaining good health." This
has been an activity since 1999 and gathers participants from a
wide age range, including those above 60; recently, it has embedded
into the fun run activity the environmental health of the district's
Tala Watershed, encouraging donations for its protection and preservation.
planting : Inside Orani WD's watershed area at the Bataan Natural
Park, OWD employees are joined by personnel from LWUA, DENR,
PNB and the Army's 24th Infantry Brigade in planting 10,000
Ficus Nota or Tibig seedlings.
has also reinforced its institutional concern for matters affecting
the Orani river, mounting steel wire fences on all river bridges
traversing the town to deter "throwing of solid waste into
the river." It has also enrolled the cooperation of town leaders
and chairmen of the different barangays surrounding the Orani river
into an organization called "Samahang Bigay-Buhay sa Kailugan,
" looking at "increasing the level of awareness of the
people on the beauty of having a clean and beautiful river"
as its accomplishment. (The water district has also shown a similar
commitment to the government's effort to arrest or correct the degradation
of our environment;)
GM Benni: transforming OWD into a "he man" of Orani
of the faithful, home of the brave
WD was established in 1978, just a few years after the LWUA-Water
District Concept was born through the Provincial Water Utilities
Act of 1973. However, the district did not take off as expected,
tied down by "talks of mismanagement and anomalies;" some
residents even came close to describing the institution with unprintable
words. LWUA, as overseer, was mandated to implement a full take
over of its operations and management. It did so in 1992. After
two years, LWUA believed it had put the district back on track and,
with confidence, searched for and installed a new regular General
Manager on the 16th of December, 1994.
new man LWUA put its confidence in is Orani WD's current general
manager, Benigno Andres. GM Benni is an economics graduate from
Ateneo de Manila, a leader who, true to his Atenean academic upbringing,
is both athletically and intellectually-driven. He remains an idealist,
someone not unfamiliar with meeting challenges. He was then with
a Makati multinational firm pioneering in developing and marketing
a communications (Easy Call) concept which paved the way for us
to send and receive real-time messages or call each other from anywhere
with a little gadget we casually refer to as "cp" or "cellphones."
Benni : true to his Atenean upbringing, he chose to face the
Orani challenge and serve the people of his birthtown
looked at Orani WD as a challenge. Just as importantly, he was looking
at that challenge through the eyes of someone from Orani; he was
born and raised in the town.
Benni began facing the challenge by defining the organization's
direction, in consultation with "a good sample of its publics."
His approach, embedded into a set of plans drawn up to 2025, was
definite: cut expenses, improve revenues. Gradually, water service
did improve through well-calculated rehab works, interconnecting
all pump stations to eliminate interruptions, increasing the network's
water pressure and water supply schedule to a 24-hour routine, and
for accuracy, introduced water pressure monitoring via radio waves.
GM Benni opted for a small but motivated workforce. "Lean but
effective," he said. He understood the human side of his employees,
their needs. Competitive salaries would give meaning to their employment,
but the challenge would be - and still is -- that the water district
would push them to perform and be efficient. Given the water district's
limited funds at the time, it was a gamble for the new general manager.
GM Benni had faith on his people; he made the gamble and implemented
the Salary Standardization Law which increased a government worker's
pay to a level comparable to a private worker's rate. Orani WD was
among the first water districts in the country to give its employees
the benefits of the law.
WD's OWDEE cooperative : now a successful multi-million peso
GM Benni did not stop at that in providing employees with motivation.
In 1996, he initiated the formation of an employee cooperative that
has undergone several transformations into what is now the OWDEE
Cooperative. Officially registered with the Cooperative Development
Authority, OWDEE is now a multi-million peso undertaking that already
includes non-water district employees as associate members. To many
employees, OWDEE has stood up for them during financially critical
Orani WD's view, the "perform and be efficient" part of
the deal - the employees' part -- meant that the latter should accept
and learn to be multi-skilled. Thus, opportunities were given for
Orani WD employees to be transformed into a group of public servants
very familiar with multi-tasking. For this end of the challenge,
GM Benni took steps to arm his employees with skills and knowledge
through trainings and seminars and keep them abreast with "current
and emerging technologies."
one looks at Orani WD today as CSC did, one would have no doubts
that GM Benni's "gamble" paid off. A study conducted several
years ago by American company Development Alternatives, Inc. classified
Orani Water District as one of the six Class "A" water
districts in the country, validating its reclassification from an
average category water district to big in 2003 "for attaining
a high level of performance in providing water service to its publics."
one enters the OWD office, one is welcomed into a home
then, Orani WD has acquired its new three-storey building (2006),
received a special award for being a Creditworthy WD (2007), was
granted authority by the CSC under its Acceditation Program - the
first water district in Bataan to be given such - which authorized
the district to take final action on appointments (2008), cited
by the CSC as "the first water district in Region 3 to comply
with the Anti-Red Tape Law" when it launched its Citizen's
Orani WD story is all about focused and intelligent leadership as
much as it is about dedicated followers, and just as much as about
a contented, well-served public. Ever since the water district was
turned over to a regular management and policy-making status, its
pace has always been a run, a run to win, as it set its eyes beyond
Orani's borders to neighboring areas where a safe and modern water
supply system is still something of a pipe dream, so to speak.