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(Re)construir servicios públicos frente a la gobernanza neoliberal : prácticas de sistemas asociativos en torno al agua en las comunidades urbanas pobres de Metro Manila

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Abstract
In the sprawling megalopolis of Metro Manila, the failure or inability of centralized public and privatized water service utilities to connect outlying and poor communities within their service areas led to the emergence of community-owned water providers run by cooperatives and neighborhood associations, often led and initiated by women. Born out of necessity and daily struggles to provide water for their households, communities organize themselves as water service cooperatives or associative water systems that assume the traditional role of the state as duty-bearers in ensuring universal access and human rights to water. Employing long-term ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, key informant interviews and literature review, this paper critically examines urban poor communities' experimentations of water service provisioning whereby women have taken on the cudgels to effectively deliver water to their own people and in the process, practice self-governance and autonomy. Using neo-institutionalist (Ostrom and Cox, 2010) and critical socio-institutionalist frameworks (Cleaver, 2002), we critically interrogate the praxes of women-led assoanguage Languciative water systems, a model whereby water consumers both control and own the service in their capacity as consumers, using the cases of Bagong Silang and Recomville Two water service cooperatives located in Caloocan City. By illustrating on-the-ground experiences, we stress the crucial role that waterless citizens and communities play in bridging the gap in the country's water service provision, thereby expanding the private/public dichotomies that often dominate water governance debates. Through these case studies, we argue that associative water systems were borne out of collective desire to have safe, clean, and affordable water to flow to waterless communities.As Metro Manila remains under a privatized water set up, these community-owned initiatives are legitimate expressions of social transformation.We problematize how these women-led associative water systems progress in the face of neoliberal governance marked by hegemonic power of private and public actors.We also investigate how democracy is exercised -or not- within these systems as well as surface the various contestations they face. This paper therefore scrutinizes the principles and pitfalls of, the ups and downs and lessons learnt from associative water systems in providing piped connections to waterless communities. Our aim is to shed light on the reconstruction of public services anchored on collective action.We find that the political possibility for collective self-organization and bottom-up social governance are facilitated or constrained by a combination of political, socioeconomic factors such as access to technical inputs and financing, social acceptability and legitimacy of the cooperative, sustained social organizing, and understanding of micro-politics and power in the community.Afterall, community-led initiatives operate in a highly contentious local politics marked by clientelism and heterogeneity. We posit that the successes of associative water systems lie on their ability to practice democracy, transparency, and accountability as well as mobilize social capital, trust, and cooperation. However, the experiences of urban poor communities in Caloocan City reveal a more complicated picture in which water service cooperatives are plagued by multiple governance issues, internal corruption, power struggles, and affordability issues.The process of building cooperatives is tension-laden, revealing the challenges of creating the commons through sociopolitical and institutional arrangements on the ground.The paper further reveals how state and market institutions successfully managed to define the terms of engagement with the urban poor communities that constrain the latter's capability to expand water service in their areas, on one hand. On the other, private and public actors have distanced themselves from the people and obscured their objectives and economic interests from the communities they are supposed to serve. This generated a situation where dissatisfaction and capitalistic exploitation are directed toward cooperatives, instead, further redefining social relations within communities (Cheng, 2014; Chng, 2008). The paper is organized into six sections.The first parts provide a short introduction of the topic as well as a brief overview of the history and socio-political underpinnings of Metro Manila's water privatization and neoliberal undercurrents that gave way to the rise of associative water systems. The second section outlines methodological considerations that detail our general approach in gathering empirical material.The third part offers a conceptual and literature review of associative water systems in theory and practice, outlining the positive and promising principles as well as the pitfalls of the model as commons or bottom-up social governance. Examples from Bolivia and the Philippines are mentioned that offered inspiration for urban poor communities in Caloocan City to embark on their own cooperative-building and water service provisioning. The fourth part narrates the dynamics, history, and experiences of Bagong Silang and Recomville Two water service cooperatives, underlining the similarities in the contexts where they operate as well as the various tensions and challenges they faced in the process of creating cooperatives and delivering quality and safe water to the urban poor households. We pay special attention to the role of women as leaders and changemakers amid a generally masculinized culture. The part played by two NGOs as wayfinders and supporters that accompanied the cooperatives accentuate the importance of having allies and partners in the process.We also detail how the uneven and inequitable relationship between Maynilad and the cooperatives produced a culture of payment for water which partially contributed to strained social relationships in the community. This culture restructured the roles and responsibilities among community, state, and market actors. The fifth part sketches the lessons learnt from these experiences, underlining the communities' struggle for self-governance and autonomy to remake public services through collective action and participation in water service provision and stressing the crucial role that women played in the process. This section also identifies three challenges around issues of non-participation, power, and outcomes/impacts, underscoring the dangers of fetishizing communities (Cleaver, 2002) as homogenous, idealized forms or sources of social innovation. Divided along the lines of gender and class, women empowerment facilitated by the cooperative through trainings and skills enhancement did not sit well with some men in the communities. Further, the capacity to pay for water of the urban poor that is greatly tied to precarity of work and informality affects the operations and management of the system. We conclude by reiterating the pivotal role played by communities in enabling water to flow to their homes. But associative water systems are far from perfect. As on-going works-in-progress, the urban poor's desired water services can only be discovered and constructed through daily -democratic- political struggles, collective action, and contestations.The praxes of associative water systems accentuate what Dahl and Soss (2012, as mentioned in McDonald, 2016) argue that "democratic conceptions of the common good will always be partial and provisional, never universal or static" (p.4).
En la megalópolis en expansión de Metro Manila, el fracaso o la incapacidad de los servicios públicos centralizados y privatizados de los servicios de agua para conectar a las comunidades pobres y periféricas dentro de sus áreas de servicio llevó al surgimiento de proveedores de agua de propiedad comunitaria administrados por cooperativas y asociaciones de vecinos, lo que entendemos como sistemas de agua asociados, que a menudo son dirigidos e iniciados por mujeres. A través de un trabajo de campo etnográfico, la observación participante, entrevistas con sujetos clave y mediante una revisión de la literatura, nuestro artículo investiga críticamente las prácticas de los sistemas de agua asociativos dirigidos por mujeres, anclados en la acción colectiva, entendidos como alternativa a las fallas del estado y del mercado. Utilizando marcos neoinstitucionalistas y socioinstitucionalistas críticos, enfocamos nuestro trabajo en dos comunidades sin agua ubicadas en la ciudad de Caloocan y subrayamos sus luchas diarias por el autogobierno y el compromiso crítico con los límites de la publicidad. Encontramos que la posibilidad política de autoorganización colectiva y de gobernanza social bottom-up, se ve facilitada o restringida por una combinación de factores políticos y socioeconómicos, tales como: el acceso a insumos técnicos y financiación, aceptación y legitimidad social de la cooperativa, sostenibilidad en el tiempo, así como la confrontación de micropolíticas y relaciones de poder dentro de la comunidad. Las iniciativas lideradas por la comunidad operan en una política local altamente polémica marcada por el clientelismo, la heterogeneidad, así como por las dinámicas de clase y género. El documento también demuestra el papel fundamental de las mujeres —a menudo desatendidas tanto en la vida como en la política de la comunidad—, como vanguardistas en la realización del derecho humano al agua de las comunidades. Las cooperativas entendidas como vehículos de empoderamiento para las mujeres ayudaron a la promoción de su movilidad social y de su reconocimiento como miembros importantes, reconstruyeron sus identidades y relaciones tanto dentro de la comunidad, como de la familia, a través de expresiones diferenciadas de agencia humana y acción colectiva. Por último, los casos estudiados, ofrecen lecciones y desafíos importantes sobre la (re)creación de servicios públicos, implorando a los profesionales, los responsables políticos y los activistas que analicen los beneficios y los límites de tales formas en el contexto de la gobernabilidad neoliberal y las desigualdades continuas.
Keywords
Agua urbana, privatización, cooperativas, liderazgo de mujeres, acción colectiva, Urban water, privatization, cooperatives, women's leadership, collective action

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MLA
Manahan, Mary Ann, et al. “(Re)Construir Servicios Públicos Frente a La Gobernanza Neoliberal : Prácticas de Sistemas Asociativos En Torno Al Agua En Las Comunidades Urbanas Pobres de Metro Manila.” RELACIONES INTERNACIONALES-MADRID, no. 45, 2020, pp. 205–26, doi:10.15366/relacionesinternacionales2020.45.009.
APA
Manahan, M. A., Villanueva, E., & Alegado, J. E. (2020). (Re)construir servicios públicos frente a la gobernanza neoliberal : prácticas de sistemas asociativos en torno al agua en las comunidades urbanas pobres de Metro Manila. RELACIONES INTERNACIONALES-MADRID, (45), 205–226. https://doi.org/10.15366/relacionesinternacionales2020.45.009
Chicago author-date
Manahan, Mary Ann, Enrique Villanueva, and Joseph Edward Alegado. 2020. “(Re)Construir Servicios Públicos Frente a La Gobernanza Neoliberal : Prácticas de Sistemas Asociativos En Torno Al Agua En Las Comunidades Urbanas Pobres de Metro Manila.” RELACIONES INTERNACIONALES-MADRID, no. 45: 205–26. https://doi.org/10.15366/relacionesinternacionales2020.45.009.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Manahan, Mary Ann, Enrique Villanueva, and Joseph Edward Alegado. 2020. “(Re)Construir Servicios Públicos Frente a La Gobernanza Neoliberal : Prácticas de Sistemas Asociativos En Torno Al Agua En Las Comunidades Urbanas Pobres de Metro Manila.” RELACIONES INTERNACIONALES-MADRID (45): 205–226. doi:10.15366/relacionesinternacionales2020.45.009.
Vancouver
1.
Manahan MA, Villanueva E, Alegado JE. (Re)construir servicios públicos frente a la gobernanza neoliberal : prácticas de sistemas asociativos en torno al agua en las comunidades urbanas pobres de Metro Manila. RELACIONES INTERNACIONALES-MADRID. 2020;(45):205–26.
IEEE
[1]
M. A. Manahan, E. Villanueva, and J. E. Alegado, “(Re)construir servicios públicos frente a la gobernanza neoliberal : prácticas de sistemas asociativos en torno al agua en las comunidades urbanas pobres de Metro Manila,” RELACIONES INTERNACIONALES-MADRID, no. 45, pp. 205–226, 2020.
@article{8680117,
  abstract     = {In the sprawling megalopolis of Metro Manila, the failure or inability of centralized public and privatized water service utilities to connect outlying and poor communities within their service areas led to the emergence of community-owned water providers run by cooperatives and neighborhood associations, often led and initiated by women. Born out of necessity and daily struggles to provide water for their households, communities organize themselves as water service cooperatives or associative water systems that assume the traditional role of the state as duty-bearers in ensuring universal access and human rights to water.

Employing long-term ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, key informant interviews and literature review, this paper critically examines urban poor communities' experimentations of water service provisioning whereby women have taken on the cudgels to effectively deliver water to their own people and in the process, practice self-governance and autonomy. Using neo-institutionalist (Ostrom and Cox, 2010) and critical socio-institutionalist frameworks (Cleaver, 2002), we critically interrogate the praxes of women-led assoanguage
Languciative water systems, a model whereby water consumers both control and own the service in their capacity as consumers, using the cases of Bagong Silang and Recomville Two water service cooperatives located in Caloocan City. By illustrating on-the-ground experiences, we stress the crucial role that waterless citizens and communities play in bridging the gap in the country's water service provision, thereby expanding the private/public dichotomies that often dominate water governance debates.

Through these case studies, we argue that associative water systems were borne out of collective desire to have safe, clean, and affordable water to flow to waterless communities.As Metro Manila remains under a privatized water set up, these community-owned initiatives are legitimate expressions of social transformation.We problematize how these women-led associative water systems progress in the face of neoliberal governance marked by hegemonic power of private and public actors.We also investigate how democracy is exercised -or not- within these systems as well as surface the various contestations they face.

This paper therefore scrutinizes the principles and pitfalls of, the ups and downs and lessons learnt from associative water systems in providing piped connections to waterless communities. Our aim is to shed light on the reconstruction of public services anchored on collective action.We find that the political possibility for collective self-organization and bottom-up social governance are facilitated or constrained by a combination of political, socioeconomic factors such as access to technical inputs and financing, social acceptability and legitimacy of the cooperative, sustained social organizing, and understanding of micro-politics and power in the community.Afterall, community-led initiatives operate in a highly contentious local politics marked by clientelism and heterogeneity.

We posit that the successes of associative water systems lie on their ability to practice democracy, transparency, and accountability as well as mobilize social capital, trust, and cooperation. However, the experiences of urban poor communities in Caloocan City reveal a more complicated picture in which water service cooperatives are plagued by multiple governance issues, internal corruption, power struggles, and affordability issues.The process of building cooperatives is tension-laden, revealing the challenges of creating the commons through sociopolitical and institutional arrangements on the ground.The paper further reveals how state and market institutions successfully managed to define the terms of engagement with the urban poor communities that constrain the latter's capability to expand water service in their areas, on one hand. On the other, private and public actors have distanced themselves from the people and obscured their objectives and economic interests from the communities they are supposed to serve. This generated a situation where dissatisfaction and capitalistic exploitation are directed toward cooperatives, instead, further redefining social relations within communities (Cheng, 2014; Chng, 2008).

The paper is organized into six sections.The first parts provide a short introduction of the topic as well as a brief overview of the history and socio-political underpinnings of Metro Manila's water privatization and neoliberal undercurrents that gave way to the rise of associative water systems.

The second section outlines methodological considerations that detail our general approach in gathering empirical material.The third part offers a conceptual and literature review of associative water systems in theory and practice, outlining the positive and promising principles as well as the pitfalls of the model as commons or bottom-up social governance. Examples from Bolivia and the Philippines are mentioned that offered inspiration for urban poor communities in Caloocan City to embark on their own cooperative-building and water service provisioning.

The fourth part narrates the dynamics, history, and experiences of Bagong Silang and Recomville Two water service cooperatives, underlining the similarities in the contexts where they operate as well as the various tensions and challenges they faced in the process of creating cooperatives and delivering quality and safe water to the urban poor households. We pay special attention to the role of women as leaders and changemakers amid a generally masculinized culture. The part played by two NGOs as wayfinders and supporters that accompanied the cooperatives accentuate the importance of having allies and partners in the process.We also detail how the uneven and inequitable relationship between Maynilad and the cooperatives produced a culture of payment for water which partially contributed to strained social relationships in the community. This culture restructured the roles and responsibilities among community, state, and market actors.

The fifth part sketches the lessons learnt from these experiences, underlining the communities' struggle for self-governance and autonomy to remake public services through collective action and participation in water service provision and stressing the crucial role that women played in the process. This section also identifies three challenges around issues of non-participation, power, and outcomes/impacts, underscoring the dangers of fetishizing communities (Cleaver, 2002) as homogenous, idealized forms or sources of social innovation. Divided along the lines of gender and class, women empowerment facilitated by the cooperative through trainings and skills enhancement did not sit well with some men in the communities. Further, the capacity to pay for water of the urban poor that is greatly tied to precarity of work and informality affects the operations and management of the system.

We conclude by reiterating the pivotal role played by communities in enabling water to flow to their homes. But associative water systems are far from perfect. As on-going works-in-progress, the urban poor's desired water services can only be discovered and constructed through daily -democratic- political struggles, collective action, and contestations.The praxes of associative water systems accentuate what Dahl and Soss (2012, as mentioned in McDonald, 2016) argue that "democratic conceptions of the common good will always be partial and provisional, never universal or static" (p.4).},
  author       = {Manahan, Mary Ann and Villanueva, Enrique and Alegado, Joseph Edward},
  issn         = {1699 - 3950},
  journal      = {RELACIONES INTERNACIONALES-MADRID},
  keywords     = {Agua urbana,privatización,cooperativas,liderazgo de mujeres,acción colectiva,Urban water,privatization,cooperatives,women's leadership,collective action},
  language     = {spa},
  number       = {45},
  pages        = {205--226},
  title        = {(Re)construir servicios públicos frente a la gobernanza neoliberal : prácticas de sistemas asociativos en torno al agua en las comunidades urbanas pobres de Metro Manila},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.15366/relacionesinternacionales2020.45.009},
  year         = {2020},
}

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