Hope amid the water crisis

Published March 24, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Dr. Jun Ynares
Dr. Jun Ynares

We can only commiserate with Manila Water and its senior executives.

This past week, they have had to face the rage of a public deprived of one of life’s essentials – clean water coming out of their faucets 24/7.

Manila Water’s situation gave everyone a clear lesson on public anger – what causes it, what aggravates it, and what one can do to mitigate it.

The public – particular the people who live in the portions of Metro Manila and Rizal province served by Manila Water – have never been this angry, at least as far as we can remember. That public anger was showcased in media, both traditional and social. It was also showcased in the House and the Senate as lawmakers grilled and lambasted the executives of the two water concessionaires and officials of the agency which oversees them.

The lesson here is clear: the level of public anger is directly proportionate to the magnitude of the expectation. Anger is the result of the equation where you subtract actual experience from public expectation. The greater the gap between expectation and actual experience, the greater the public disappointment. It is that disappointment which triggers and fuels and the anger of a fuming public deprived of the luxury of a long, daily bath.

Manila Water’s problem is that it raised the bar of public expectation quite high.

It will be recalled that prior to the entry of the private sector into the water distribution business, most of Metro Manila had no regular water service. The residents of Antipolo had to rely on their own deep wells or on water dealers who sold the commodity by the drum from their tankers.

The ordeal came to an end when the leaders of Rizal province and Antipolo City welcomed the entry of the water concessionaire into the scene. Residents willingly endured the inconvenience caused by massive pipe-laying activities. When clean water started coming out of their faucets, they were happy. Here, at last, was water supply they can rely on.

True enough, clean water came out of faucets 24/7.

Initially, clean water coming out of faucets 24/7 was seen as a blessing. Later, it became the standard of service. The public would accept no less than that.

In fairness to Manila Water, it met that expectation and kept that standard for many years.

Until recently.

When the faucets went dry, the public howled like it had never done before. The disappointment was major; the anger, unprecedented.

This is one reality that the executives of Manila Water must face. The public is a very difficult boss. It must be pleased and impressed. Anyone who dares serve the public must understand that the standard of satisfaction gets higher every day. One must not risk disappointing the public. Disappointment makes for a collective amnesia – it makes everyone forget the good done to them.

Manila Water President Ferdz dela Cruz has apologized to the public. In fairness to the head of the concessionaire, this is one bold and noble move. Dela Cruz admitted that the company he heads has caused massive inconvenience and has failed the expectation of the public it has satisfied over the past many years. He is holding himself accountable for this painful experience, he said. In our book, that is an act which only a true gentleman can do.

We do not know if the apology is premature or has been made just in time. What we know is that De la Cruz’s’ apology has been lauded by many and bashed online by others. That is the other lesson – the public as our boss is not easily appeased. It may take more than an apology to bring the level of public anger down.

De la Cruz also said he is ready to resign in the light of what has happened.

Again, this is a laudable move.

However, we are more interested in what the Manila Water President will do to alleviate the plight of its customers. Resignation may not be a solution. It may simply lead to an aggravation of the present situation.

The public is angry.

The problem with anger is that the high emotional state prevents us all from thinking soberly. Sober thinking is key to finding a solution to the water supply problem. Our view is that there is too much of the blame game at the moment. We would rather hear options that can lead to an end to the problem rather than cries for blood.

There has been one effective way of appeasing an angry public. This is the tool called the “Road Map”. A map has a starting point (Point A) and a destination (Point B).

Point A is our situation today highlighted by our dry faucets. Point B is our aspiration – to be back to the days when clean water came out of our faucets 24/7.

Manila Water should give us the Road Map that clearly explains how we can all get to Point B from Point A.

The clarity of that Road Map will create hope.

And, during times when taking a long, cold shower something one cannot do, hope will go a long way.

*For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to #4 Horse Shoe Drive, Beverly Hills Subdivision, Bgy. Beverly Hills, Antipolo City, Rizal.