Formulation of Localized Customer Service Code

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Knowledge about the problem of lack of water or the total unavailability of potable water in a given community may be the start of the process. But the more challenging part of the process is to know the root cause/s of said problem, then and only then is it that probable measures or solutions to such problem may be discussed and conceptualized. Specifically, the issues on Small Scale Water Service Providers (SSWPs) are: 1) poor sustainability of water supply services; 2) poor service coverage; 3) WSPs lack of capability to undertake the responsibility of managing the water system.

Challenge or Opportunity Addressed and Short Background

Level II water supply provision are basically infrastructures built by the government mostly through a grant where the operation and management of the system are left with the recipient communities which in most cases do not have the capability to undertake the responsibility of managing the system by themselves.

A major problem in the level II water supply delivery is therefore not so much the installation of infrastructure but sustaining these services and providing better coverage.

Insufficiency or, total lack or unavailability of potable water supply in the local community which caused adverse effects in the health of people and retards social and economic growth gave rise to the implementation of the project.

The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) Team during the focus group discussion/consultation took the opportunity to educate both the WSP and the consumers about the Water Code of the Philippines, the importance of the watershed management and the general principles behind the customer service code. On the part of the WSP they were given the opportunity to explain their local policies, plans and programs in their local dialect so that these are clearly understood by the audience. Best practices of other WSPs that have been documented by NWRB are shared with the WSPs and consumers for possible adoption in their water system.

Strategy or Approach Chosen

The formulation of Localized Customer Service Code is complementing a previous initiative where a Customer Service Code was developed for National Water Resources Board (NWRB) regulated Level III Water Service Providers. The existing NWRB Customer Service Code for Level III water service providers is one of its tools for regulation. Under the project, it was reviewed and validated its applicability or non-applicability to Level II WSPs, through the active participation of stakeholders and integrating the key concepts of a) gender non-discrimination; b) participation, empowerment; c) integrity, accountability, transparency; d) human rights, human dignity; and e) justice under the rule of law in the Localized Customer Service Code that will be developed.

The applicability/non-applicability of existing NWRB Customer Service Code to Level II WSP was assessed, taking into consideration the different types of WSPs (i.e., cooperatives, Local Government Unit-run, Rural Water & Sanitation Association and Barangay Water & Sanitation Association, and other entities).

The main strategy is the piloting of the project to five (5) qualified level 2 water service providers, from which a template and a Manual for Roll-out was developed, a criteria for the selection of WSP for replication was formulated and a Manual for Roll-out.

Results and Impacts

The people of the respective communities where the LCSC project were conducted were enlightened through the instructional approach of information and education, the method adopted by the project team.

One form of capacity building is the development of service codes. The formulation of a Localized Customer Service Code (CSC)for Level II water service providers (WSPs) can be a tool for empowering both the provider (e.g. LGU, cooperative, RWSA, BWSA, private) and the users (communities) of the Level II facilities towards improvement of efficiency, access and quality of potable water services. Rights and obligations of both the WSPs and the customers will be defined with agreed expected levels of service and will enable customers to have an active role in the operation and management of the water supply system.

Insights and Continuation

The most valuable lessons learned in this project are:

  • Know the true and real reason/s that give rise to the problem;
  • Make a tentative plan, and finalize;
  • Make sure that your plan of implementation is acceptable/ adaptable to the target community.

The acceptability of the project is always dependent upon its adaptability in the target area; but all these should be anchored upon the perceived sincerity of the proponents- personnel conducting the dialogue with the people of the target community.

The document (LCSC handbook) where the rights, duties, and obligations of the parties are expressly provided, and which is the contract of agreement between the WSP management/operators on the one hand and the consumers on the other, also provides for mechanism in complaint and dispute resolution; further the LCSC is adopted as a local ordinance by way of resolution in the local government unit concerned. As it is, the LCSC is the social contract between the parties regarding the use and operation of water utility in the local community. Undeniably, the need of infrastructure projects after the soft component (LCSC) is the lasting solution to the sustainability of the potable water in those areas.

Potential for Replication and Scale up

The applicability of the principles and processes learned and applied in this MDGF Project (Output 2.3) could be employed in many other endeavors of public service. Other water service providers should be managed to allow the customers to participate in decision affecting water supply, specifically in determining the appropriate levels of service. This resolve conflicts relating to tariffs.

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