UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Water privatization in Metro Manila : assessing the state of equitable water provision Torio, Philamer Carlos


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 careful evaluation. 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.

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