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Water District feature

No Better Place Like Home For Charity
Text by Teodoro M. Reynoso
Photos by Rey Vida
How Alitagtag Water District was transformed by its Lady General Manager

“If you wanted something to be discussed and debated upon, give it to the men. If you wanted something done, give it to the women”. Britain’s famous former Iron Lady Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was quoted as saying something to this effect in one of her speeches during her long tenure as head of government and state of one of the world’s enduring and strongest democracies and ertswhile global super power. Thatcher also gained fame for her decisive leadership especially during Britain’s war against the macho-dominated military junta-ruled Argentina over the Falklands in the early 80s.

The subject of this story is not a strong-willed woman who could summon a nation’s resources and rally its people to a higher cause or purpose.

The subject of this story is a simple, sweet, graciously-aging little lady whose looks hide her strong will and strong sense of purpose and one who would rather use patience, persistence, charm and the wisdom culled from long years of experience to transform a small water district to the best that it can possibly be so that it could contribute in making a comparatively lesser-known Batangas town a better place to live in and be proud of.

She is none other than incumbent Alitagtag Water District (AWD) general manager Charity Renegado, a BS Commerce Major in Accounting graduate who fortuitously had her initiations in the challenging and intricate business of selling water as employee of the giant Davao City Water District down Philippine South for ten years.

Her story is pivotal in the latter-day development and transformation of Alitagtag Water District from once a literally small water utility operating from a make-shift tin-roofed and tin-walled “office” that looked more like a food stall that dispensed intermittent water supply service about 700 odd service connections in the early 90s to a still small ( officially size category- speaking) water district that today transacts its businesses from a rented air-conditioned office building ( plans are afoot for the construction of its own office building ) and providing reliable round-the-clock potable piped water service to more than 3,000 domestic and commercial concessionaires in practically the entire town.

Alitagtag WD's main office

Charity Renegado was on her second year as Commerce student at UE Manila when her father was assigned as City Engineer of Davao City in the early 70s. She went on to continue her college education at the University of Mindanao graduating with a Bachelors of Science degree in Commerce, Major in Accounting.

Almost immediately after graduation, Charity got hired as an accounting clerk at the Davao City Water District, among the first and the biggest water districts to be established by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) with the promulgation of the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973, better known as Presidential Decree No. 198, as amended. It was in Davao that Charity met her husband, Felimon Renegado with whom she had four children, now all professionals.

She worked for DCWD for ten years from 1976 to 1986 learning some of the ropes in water district management and operation, up close and personal under then DCWD pioneering chairman Ranulfo Rabanal and affable general manager Iluminado “Luming” Quinto.

In 1990, at the end of her father’s stint as Davao City Engineer, Charity returned with her children to Alitagtag. Shortly after, she was offered and convinced by the AWD’s then women’s sector representative in the board, Mrs. Felisa Adajar, to accept the position as bookkeeper in the water district in view of her previous extensive experience with the DCWD.

Coming from a big water district as Davao, Charity initially was disheartened by the then sorry physical state of the Alitagtag Water District which was established just two years back in 1988 with Atty. Petronio Bunggo as its first general manager.

But Charity realized that it was also an opportune time for somebody like her to immediately make an impact to a fledgling water district as AWD which at the time of her arrival in 1990 was also just beginning to take off operationally with just partial water service of 12 hours on ration basis in view of its limited source and supply.

GM Charity showing off one of the district's pumping station facilities to LWUA personnel

But at that time, the AWD water system and its limited reach and capability was hardly Charity’s main concern being an accountant and bookkeeper..Seeing that the AWD had but crude accounting system in place, Charity immediately requested LWUA for the installation of the Commercial Practices System (CPS) to put order to the water district’s accounting and finances, especially billing and collection.
The period between 1990 and 1997 when Atty. Bunggo vacated the general managership of AWD was also a time of mixed frustrations and mixed opportunities personally by Charity. She saw how the water district passed up on some opportunities for improvement of its system and operations. Like the offers of financial assistance from JICA and LWUA which went by due to the reluctance of the AWD management and board.

Shortly after she was appointed general manager, Charity had the chance of attending a seminar in Baguio City sponsored by LWUA wherein she spoke her mind on the travails of a small, struggling water districts like the AWD. Luckily, she caught the fancy and attention of LWUA manager Engr. Oscar Jusi who assisted and interceded on her behalf for the grant of a P1/5 million LWUA loan for the development of a new well source to augment the water district’s then just sole well source. Unfortunately, the well development project proved unproductive and GM Charity had had to plead with LWUA that the AWD just repay part of the amount already released by LWUA for the failed project.

The following year, 1998, GM Charity took advantage of an opportunity to ventilate the water district’s problems with then newly-designated LWUA Administrator Prudencio M. Reyes who was also taken by her sincere show of concern and endearing straight-forwardness.

From such simple encounter and meeting of minds was sown the seed of future plans for the improvement and development of the AWD water system.

Forthrightly, then LWUA administrator Reyes approved a P1 million grant for the AWD for the conduct of a water resource study courtesy of the LWUA SWECO then under Dr. Bruno Haman which resulted in the coming up of a comprehensive Water Resources Assessment and Development for Alitagtag Water District covering the period 2000-2030.

To this day, GM Charity proudly looks back to that singular achievement no other water district has achieved since. Showing us a copy of the voluminous book containing the detailed studies and plans for the long term development of water resources of the town, GM Charity said she learned recently that similar assessment study for the entire province of Cavite cost the provincial government more than P30 million.

With a very reliable water resources development plan at her disposal, GM Charity then proceeded to embark on the more systematic development, improvement and expansion of the AWD water facilities with the technical and financial assistance of LWUA.

In 2001, with fresh loan from LWUA and the balance of the earlier loan from the unsuccessful well development project in 1997, the AWD was able to this time successfully develop the Muzon well and pumping station which housed the water district’s largest water pump to date.

In 2005, AWD became a recipient of loan from the KFW project package in the amount of P20 million which resulted to the development of three additional wells, total rehabilitation of the pipelines in the then existing service area covering nine barangays and expansion of transmission lines to four more barangays including some sitios. However, the transfer of the existing service connections to the new pipelines were not completed on account of fund insufficiency.

In 2009, LWUA approved an NLIF loan amounting to P25 million for AWD of which more than P20 million was actually released and used in completing the total transfer of the existing service connections to the new system and the expansion of the system to two more barangays and some sitios.

The AWD water system at present covers and provides 24/7 potable water service to practically the entire town of Alitagtag including three barangays that had previously de-annexed and have returned to the system. AWD service lines extend to the border of Bauan town and even transcend to adjacent bordering barangays of Cuenca, San Pascual and San Felipe towns.

But GM Charity is not one who would hog all the credit to herself. She is also very acknowledging of the support and assistance as well as contributions especially of LWUA field personnel who have been assigned to assist the AWD institutionally and technically.

Like LWUA resident engineer Lito Lumbera, a Lipa City native and still current resident who has been highly instrumental in the successful implementation of the water districts source development and system improvement and expansion projects since 2001. Without an engineer in her current staff, GM Charity highly depends on Engr.Lumbera and puts her full trust and confidence on his advise on technical matters involving the development and operations of the AWD.
On the institutional development and management sides of running the affairs of the AWD, GM Charity has come to rely and put her full trust and confidence on the advise and recommendations of a succession of LWUA management advisors, most especially her now long-time Management Advisor, Ms. Ruby Quinitio who like her, “a small but terrible person” who is sincere, hard-working and has only what is good and better for the AWD at heart.

Alitagtag town's municipal building

GM Charity is also ably assisted by her dependable section chiefs, Ms. Nenita Adan who is handling the water district’s administrative and financial operations, including billing and collection and Alex Cuya who is taking care of AWD construction, production and maintenance requirements. AWD billing and collection is now fully computerized and that with just 17 employees including job orders, AWD has among the highest connection to employee ratio of 120 connections per employee.

Of course, GM Charity never fails to attribute the water district’s current state of development to a succession of personalities that made up the AWD Board of Directors since the water district’s formative years. Most especially, he acknowledged the trust reposed upon her by former Director Felisa Adajar who was the one who recruited her to join the fledgling AWD in 1990 and the AWD Board of Directors who gave offered her the general managership of AWD in 1997 and consistently supported her in the transformation of the water district from 2001 todate.

The present AWD Board is composed of Francisco M. Tubo ( Education ), Chairman; Norma R. Castillo ( Women’s) ), Gener H. Marasigan ( Business ), Atty. Rodolfo D. Amurao ( Professional ) and Anastacio H. Hernandez (Civic) . One who is not apt to lift her won chair, GM Charity said that at times, a lady manager has an advantage because while both male and female managers can be decisive, aggressive, straight-forward, motivated, persistent and patient, only lady managers can be more humble enough to show willingness to learn and to ask for assistance. And use her appeal and charm, if needed.
Very Charity indeed.

July 2011

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