Undertaken by doctoral candidate Philamer Torio, this research project will study the privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage System (MWSS), the agency tasked to provide water and sewerage services for 16 million Metro Manila residents. Hailed as the largest privatization program in the world for a water utility, this program has had two private firms providing water services since 1997. Even as the Metro Manila water privatization and other similar programs have been acknowledged as successful endeavors in certain respects, there is still continuing debate on whether or not water privatization benefits the poor. Some literature suggests that they do derive benefits, citing increased access to safe and higher quality water. Others maintain that privatization programs are not pro-poor as marginalized consumers are usually the last to get connected to the system or even unable to get water connections at all.
This research aims to answer the following questions: 1) To what extent do different communities and areas in Metro Manila have the same opportunity in gaining access to potable water from the system? and 2) With regard to water pressure, availability, quality, and affordability, what are the lived experiences of the different communities within the service area?
This project will employ the use of indicators, such as service coverage, water quality, and water supply availability, to investigate general patterns that prevail across the different socio-economic classes. Interviews with officials and representatives of MWSS, private concessionaires, NGOs, local governments, consumer organizations, and urban poor groups will be conducted to gain a better appreciation of major stakeholder viewpoints and assessments of this privatization program.
Existing literature on water privatization, water governance, human rights to water, Neoliberalism, benchmarking, and water privatization experiences will be reviewed to contextualize the results of the study. The broader context of results will include assessments of tariff structures, ability to access water, and changing quality of water for different communities.