'Snail mail' still big business in the Philippines

'Snail mail' still big business in the Philippines

Lovers may have switched to text messaging and e-mail to keep in touch, but "snail mail" remains big business, according to the chief of the Philippine Postal Corp. Postmaster General Ma. Josefina de la Cruz said the government-owned and -controlled corporation managing the country's postal system posted a net income of 640.43 million pesos (S$18 million) last year, the bulk of which came from "snail mail," so called because it takes mailmen several days to hand-deliver the letters and documents nationwide.

"Many people think snail mail is dead, but our biggest business is still snail mail," De la Cruz said on the sidelines of Philpost's 23rd anniversary celebrations.

"You'd be amazed at the variety of mail we receive and deliver," she added.

The Philpost head said about 80 per cent of the company's income come from the traditional mail operations, upending the common notion that text messaging and e-mail, among other new communications technologies, have caused the demise of snail mail.

In fact, the Philpost 2014 annual report indicated that the number of mail posted last year increased to 88.48 million, up 44.56 per cent from mail in 2013. The company also delivered 133.25 million mail nationwide last year, a 12.75 per cent increase over 2013 figures. The increase explains Philpost's net income of 640.43 million pesos last year, from 588.96 million pesos in 2013.

Commercial post

The increase in mail volume can be attributed mainly to the increasing correspondence between overseas Filipino workers and their friends, families and colleagues in the Philippines, De la Cruz said.

She noted, however, that personal correspondence, such as love letters and greeting cards from all parts of the world have shrunk in number and now account for only 18 per cent of Philpost's deliveries.

"Nowadays the bulk of what we receive and deliver is commercial post-marketing brochures, statements of account, and even credit cards and checkbooks. The nature of items being sent has changed, but there are still items being sent (or mailed)," she said.

Diversifying

Other significant sources of business are the courts, which routinely send out and receive judicial pleadings through registered mail, a system that allows them to track when a pleading has been sent or received by a respondent.

But although the mail business remains strong, Philpost is bent on diversifying the services it offers in a bid to reinvent itself as a complete logistics solutions provider, the Philpost chief said.

Last year, it launched a next-day parcel and cargo delivery service. The company relaunched the service this year to showcase the 50 delivery vans it recently acquired, all of them equipped with global positioning system (GPS) beacons that are expected to make mail delivery quicker and more efficient.

"Our vans are also ready for e-commerce deliveries," De la Cruz said.

The Postmaster General said the company was also intent on capitalising on its over 1,300 post offices nationwide to provide unprecedented last-mile delivery services.

"Our nationwide network is unmatched, which means Philpost can really excel in last-mile delivery. We are (also) converting excess spaces in regional offices into warehouses," she said, adding that private companies can now view the company's storage capacity for possible use in their businesses.

Already, private enterprises and several government agencies, among them the Department of Budget and Management, are tapping Philpost's warehouses in the Bicol region and in Mindanao for their logistics requirements.

Philpost has also inked a deal with the Department of Health for the postal delivery of medicines to the barrios and has initiated a remittance service under its postal money order business, using its more than 300 post offices connected to the Internet to transfer cash instantly.

Irreplaceable part

De la Cruz said the logistics and money order businesses of Philpost constitute just a small part of its business for now, but the company was bullish about the growth of these services in the coming years.

Still, the Philpost chief said snail mail remains an irreplaceable part of the company's business.

"Even with social media, nothing can totally replace traditional snail mail," De la Cruz said. "If you are courting me, I won't say 'yes' if you don't write and send me a (love) letter."

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