Mouton Morgan (2014). « Lighting up the urban poor in Metro Manila »

27 juin 2014

Mouton Morgan (2014). « Lighting up the urban poor in Metro Manila. How has the neoliberal reform of the energy sector impacted electricity distribution in low-income settlements of the Philippine capital city?», Working papers du Programme Cities are back in town, 2014‑2, Paris, Sciences Po

In 2001, the Government of the Philippines signed the Electricity Power Industry Reform Act, and consequently introduced a reform that deeply impacted the energy sector. This new regulatory framework explicitly drew upon the so-called « neoliberal » model inspired by the British experience and its replica (in Australia or New Zealand for instance). It unbundled the sector in order to allow for an increased participation of the private sector, while establishing an independent regulator to ensure the correct functioning of the market. This paper argues that the reform was primarily driven by the need to secure electricity provision, and that consequently the question of access to electricity in urban poor communities was largely ignored. The central state withdrew its attention from the issue of electrification, and the empowerment of new actors at the local level can be observed: city governments and local authorities are more and more involved in the decision-making process, thus opening the way to participation from civil society. This new arrangement of actors involved in low-income areas’ access to electricity has an impact on the distribution utility’s behaviour. It now adopts more targeted electrification schemes in cooperation with local actors, which allows the company to both increase end-users’ support and externalise a part of its costs, and designs more inclusive policies for this category of consumers. Beyond the traditional debate over the benefits and shortcomings of the neoliberal regulatory framework, this paper raises the issue of its consequences on the urban poor of Metro Manila: the policies targeting them are now more localised, but this ‘territorialisation’ comes with a fragmentation of the metropolitan space and the creation of new territorial inequalities.