Valentine cards gone; today’s mail mostly billsBy Erika Sauler
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Like a spurned lover, postman Nolan Landeta rues that the digital age has taken romance out of his mail bag.
Landeta used to have stacks of Valentine cards in his satchel come February for delivery on his beat in Sta. Cruz, Manila. That was in the 1980s.
Nowadays, Landeta and other postmen at the Manila Central Post Office deliver mostly credit card statements, phone bills and legal notices.
“Before, there were letters just to and from Manila. Every letter in my bag was personal. Now, about 80 percent are statements of accounts,” said the 53-year-old Landeta.
The dawning of the age of the Internet and mobile phones has snuffed out the allure of sending and receiving amorous letters and cards on red-letter days.
And Philippine Postal Corp. (PHLPost), instead of smarting from an unrequited love affair, has moved on and found someone new.
“The public has a misconception that this corporation lives on regular mail. It’s true that through the years, our stamp sales for ordinary mails have declined,” Postmaster General Josefina de la Cruz told the Inquirer in an interview.
“But it has been replaced by mail from commercial establishments. Instead of dealing with individual, walk-in clients, we now go aggressive seeking out accounts of banks and corporations,” she said.
These new accounts may prove to be more reliable partners as they provide regular revenue, said De la Cruz, a former governor of Bulacan.
In 2011, when De la Cruz assumed office, PHLPost, a self-sustaining government corporation, made a profit of P110 million, which tripled the following year to P355 million.
The agency is still playing Cupid for this Valentine’s Day. Personalized delivery of chocolates, flowers and stuffed toys is part of the service at participating post offices in the cities of Manila, Makati, Quezon City and the province of Bulacan. The cut-off time of delivery within the locality is 2 p.m. Thursday and areas within Metro Manila until 11 a.m.
“Despite our modern technology, such as the use of Internet and texting, Valentine greetings are still best expressed through the sending of flowers, chocolates, love letters and cards,” De la Cruz said.
PHLPost also has released 55,000 pieces of Valentine’s Day commemorative stamps featuring a stylized drawing of a couple holding hands, wearing traditional Filipino costumes, professing their undying love for each other.
A series of stamps called “Rosas” featuring the works of young Filipino artists are also available for P10 each.
Aside from stamps sales, PHLPost earns from corporate accounts, financial services, rentals of its properties and postal ID fees.
But longtime postmen do not seem to feel this trumpeted income. They say their clothing and transportation allowances have been delayed.
They have also lost the opportunity for weekend overtime from the mountains of letters that used to come in the “ber” months.
“Before, when you do overtime, you will get paid at the end of the month. Now, if there is any overtime work at all, the pay will take two months,” Landeta said.
He recalled that postmen used to deliver an average of 600 letters a day per area. This is now down to about 200.
Hopefully, the implementation of a “rationalization plan” would increase their pay, although it would also mean fewer employees.
Landeta said more than 70 postmen at the Manila Central Post Office alone had opted to retire under the “ratplan,” which was criticized by union leaders.
The plan, which brought down the number of plantilla positions from about 12,000 to 7,043, aims to reduce redundancy, De la Cruz said.
“There are people holding positions that they are not performing. Some postmen are under contracts of service because their ‘items’ are given to other people in the office. All told, we did (the rationalization plan) to correct that,” she said.
De la Cruz said postmen now constitute half of the personnel, instead of a third of the total.
“The upper positions, the bosses, were cut down but the postmen remained, indicating that we recognize their importance in the organization,” she said.
The reorganization has also resulted in incremental savings, allowing PHLPost to spend on repairs of service vehicles and computers for modernization.
“They used to spend 90 percent of the total budget for salaries. So there’s no more left for modernization and refleeting. Now if I remember it right, we spent 75 percent for personnel services,” she said. “Our target is 70-30. We will have less people but they are well-paid people.”
“I’m not saying it’s perfect but we have gradually started to make up with our obligations. Hopefully, by the time I step down in 2016, most if not all debts will have been cleared,” she said.
“They’ve been losing hundreds of millions of pesos through the years. That’s why this corporation is deep in debt,” De la Cruz said, citing the agency’s P1.2-billion liabilities.
Starting over does not come without adjustments. PHLPost’s focus on business accounts means there is an expectation to deliver on time and there is a need to erase the negative impression because of pilferage and the hijacking of delivery trucks.
Proof of delivery
De la Cruz said global positioning systems had been installed in delivery vans and additional 80 delivery vans are expected this year. Around 400 personal computers have been purchased to improve connectivity of 200 post offices nationwide.
The postmen have been required to immediately report proof of delivery. A system of punishment has been imposed, outright dismissal for theft or when they thrice fail to deliver on time.
“It was not easy and there was so much resistance when we imposed these systems of control and monitoring. It’s not true that there is no business in the postal service. The problem was it was not done right. Because when we made changes, in God’s grace, there’s money coming in every month,” she said.
“Like any change, some people will be happy and others will not. But I’m not here to make people happy, I’m here to turn this corporation around,” De la Cruz said.
And as PHLPost enters into financial services and money remittances, De la Cruz hopes to hire younger and idealistic personnel to implement a new culture and face the challenge of transformation initiatives.
As part of the program, the agency will provide 300 smartphones in the following months to improve efficiency in reporting deliveries.
Your friendly neighborhood postman will soon be snapping photos as proof of delivery to be submitted to the server for real-time tracking.
For the faithful, this could be an added incentive for continuing the Valentine card tradition and avoiding glitches in the digital age.