TURNING POINT: Towards a Culture of Excellence

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/10 March)Seriously adopting TAPP (transparency, accountability, participatory, and predictability) principles in governance may curb, if not ultimately eliminate, corruption and inefficiency in government service.

Transparency allows maximum openness and visibility of government transactions to the public.

Accountability clearly identifies the person responsible and accountable for a particular delivery of a service.

Participatory gives the citizens the opportunity to participate in improving performance by being vigilant and watchful and appreciative of every act of professionalism and competence.

Predictability assures that decision-making or performance outcomes are reliable and consistent with official standard and public expectations.

The operation of Lingkod Pinoy Center in Robinsons Malls is a right, pleasant and commendable move in the direction of transparent, accountable, participatory and predictable governance.

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No one has done it before.

The Robinsons Land Corporation, in a strategic way of showcasing its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has mixed and enhanced legit business and government services together in one location closer to the people.

The Corporation, while serving the shopping needs of its mall customers, allow them too and the general public easy access to many frontline government services in one self-contained facility in its malls across the country, otherwise known as the Robinsons Malls Lingkod Pinoy Center (RMLPC).

A Lingkod Pinoy Center, depending on the size and location of the mall, may pull together as many government services possible in an area. The participating agencies may include the SSS, PAGIBIG, PhilHealth, GSIS, LTO, NBI, DTI, LRA, TESDA, and DFA. The agencies are provided with a station or booth within the RMLPC to conduct their business free of rents.

All the possible services of the participating agencies are rendered to the public in hassle-free, safe, convenient and comfortable venue within the mall. A customer may go shopping or access to other mall services while waiting for his number. No time therefore is wasted in queue or in waiting for one’s turn for a service.

And I suppose the fixers who are like vultures that hover regularly around LTO compounds may no longer be able to ply their trade because of the one-on-one transparent transaction in the center.

I noticed last week the professionalism and efficiency of the government frontline desks in executing their functions at the RMLPC, Robinson Place, Cagayan de Oro City. The CDO RMLPC houses the services of PhilHealth, PAGIBIG, SSS, and TESDA. The COMELEC has also installed a registration booth for new voters and transferees in the city.

The RMLPC is an excellent example of a private sector initiative to partner with the government in bringing to where the people are efficient professional TAPP-influenced government services.

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Indeed, professionalism and excellence is gaining grounds around us that we hardly notice.

Let me share you this experience. A few years before the devastating earthquake rocked Bohol, my family shipped to the island for a 3-day tour. We took Vessel 1 of Cebu Ferries. The boat was spacious, neat and clean. Every now and then utility workers mopped the floor, checked and collected trash, and cleaned the toilets. The meals tasted good, just rightly priced and served in a cozy restaurant. The crew members were courteous, helpful and accommodating.

The boat departed for Jagna, Bohol from Cagayan de Oro almost exactly on time at 8 in the morning. We crossed Bohol Seas for 5. 5 hours and dropped anchor at Jagna at 1:30 in the afternoon, bull’s eye on the estimated time of arrival (ETA) printed in our passage ticket.

The disembarkation of passengers was very orderly and was like a solemn church procession. There was no rush, no jockeying for advantage position, and no noise. Everybody fell on line and waited for his turn on the gangplank. The porters who materialized unobtrusively in the boat were very polite in negotiating their trade with potential clients.

Not a single vehicle was allowed inside the port area of Jagna: all vehicles and welcome parties waited outside the gate of the pier. Public utility vehicles – taxis, jeeps, multi-cabs, and tricycles fell on line to receive the first passengers to reach them. There was no haggling. The policy was “first come first served” and “first filled first to depart.” Long distance vehicles like buses and vans for hire (H –van) were not allowed near the pier and were parked in the bus terminal about half a kilometer away. And this was strictly observed.

Now this is something, a far cry from the landscape of inter-island shipping a decade or two ago. In the recent past, the inter-island vessels that plied the ports of Visayas and Mindanao were mostly decrepit and rotting remnants of WW II wooden mine sweepers, rust-eaten former naval supply ships, and mothballed but refurbished Japanese fishing boats. They were called “sailing coffins” because their appearance seemed to invite disaster and death.

The ships were always cramped with a mix of cargoes – humans, copra, rice, bananas, carabaos, cattle, pigs, dogs, cats, chicken, rats and cockroaches. The boats were dirty. Garbage and litters scattered uncollected everywhere. Going to the toilet was a torture as you would be poisoned by the monstrous sight and smell of human waste. The boats left ports 3, 4, or 5 hours behind schedule for one reason or another.

Disembarkation was a nightmare: passengers wanted to go out of the ships all at the same time. Porters climbed windows, blocked the way of the passengers, and hauled their luggage and cargoes without clear portage fee arrangement ending later in heated argument.

Down the pier was a riot. Taxi, bus, jeepney dispatchers and tricycle drivers swamped on the harassed passengers – some of which had already panicked upon losing sight of their porter and luggage, offering their transports even if many were already filled to the roof.

That was past and the picture has changed. Indeed, despite bad publicity owing from inter-island vessel accidents, the condition of ship travel has greatly improved over the years.

What we experienced in Cebu Ferries actually mirrors the change going on in many of our passenger boats, and the Jagna example of port management is becoming a familiar feature in many of our ports. Although most passenger vessels are still second hand or used boats, they are nonetheless very much bigger and reliable than the boats of yesteryears. They are loaded with the state of the art navigation equipment. They have been reconditioned, redesigned and improved to serve best the need and comfort of their clients.

The addition of fast crafts services in inter-island shipping further improves the image of navigation and sea travel in the country.

What is happening in our boats and ports, whatever still the limitations may be, is already an achievement that we can be proud of. It is discipline and professionalism in action.

It is not true after all that we have gone to the dogs. In fact, the culture of professionalism and excellence is gaining ground and continues to spread among the people through the example and performances of unsung professionals in our midst – like the new breed of shipping entrepreneurs, port managers, ship crew, port and public workers, and the commuting public.

This social behavioral change is hardly noticed or is simply taken for granted by many as a matter of course. But it is there, nonetheless,r granted by the e experience.domains of public service every anted by the public at large. But it is there creating ripples in other domains of public service every time one is touched by the experience.

The Filipino loves order and harmony; the Filipino values sanitation and cleanliness; the Filipino relishes comfort and beauty; and, despite what many say, the Filipino actually appreciates the value of time and excellence in workplaces. Inasmuch as he cherishes these qualities in his social and physical environment, the Filipino must eventually create them himself. There is no doubt that the Filipino can be professional and deliver excellence in what he attempts and does. (William R. Adan, Ph.D., was a research and extension worker, professor and the first chancellor of the Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.  He was a British Council fellow and trained in 1994 at Sheffield University, United Kingdom, on Participatory Planning and Environmentally Responsible Development.  Upon retirement, he served as national consultant to the ADB-DENR project on integrated coastal resource management. He is the immediate past president of the MSU Alumni Association.)

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