Join us in congratulating EDGES member Phil Torio for the successful completion of the PhD program at IRES! During his doctoral work under the supervision of Dr. Leila Harris, Phil looked at how the water privatization in Manilla has affected the lives of the urban poor, how they have managed to cope with the effects of privatization, and how their experiences compare with those of marginalized consumers from similar privatization programs in other countries. His thesis, titled “Water privatization in Metro Manila: assessing the state of equitable water provision” is available online HERE.
Abstract: This dissertation extensively examines the Metro Manila water privatization, one of the
largest and longest-running privatization programs in the world for a water utility. Regular
performance assessments show significantly improved privatized water services since 1997,
citing increased area coverage, with 24-hour supply of high pressure, good quality water. The
dissertation takes performance assessment a step further by determining whether or not such
services have been experienced by all consumers, particularly the urban poor. Scenarios where
urban poor communities have not been able to benefit from improved water provision are
identified through extensive analysis that foregrounds equity as a key parameter worthy of
Evidence-based equity metrics show that access and affordability remain critical issues
for impoverished communities, despite considerable improvements shown by traditional metrics.
Connected urban poor households enjoy improved water services, but affordability is a major
concern requiring a review of existing water tariff structures. With limited supply options and
low bargaining power, unconnected urban poor households in southern peri-urban areas pay high
prices for monthly water consumption that is below the minimum World Health Organization
standard, posing health risks to individuals and communities alike. Informal settlements (squatter
communities) in networked areas that are unable to get direct water service connections because
of property rights issues, highly depend on community-based operators (supplied by the private
concessionaires) to provide the last phase of water delivery.
This research offers key insights to better ensure that privatization programs benefit all
households, regardless of socio-economic status. For Metro Manila, policies that may address
access and affordability concerns include water tariff reform, conversion guidelines for
community water systems, service coverage formula revision, multilateral grants for new service
connections of poor households, temporary distribution facilities for informal settlements, as
well as new water sources and distribution systems for southern peri-urban communities. While
performance assessments based on efficiency metrics offer a sense of the privatization program’s
achievements, assessments based on equity metrics presented in this dissertation provide a fuller
appreciation of the degree to which all consumers benefit from improved water services.