Collective Connections and Social Practices in Metro Cebu, Philippines: Striving for Legitimation

Special Report: Networks in Cities of the Global South
By Véronique Verdeil

Collective connections are usually not taken into account in estimations of connection rates to water supply, which only focus on water provision at home through private connections. However, collective connections may be a major alternative for a large part of the population not individually connected to the water network, as suggested by the example of Metro Cebu (Philippines). The local water utility there timidly maintains subsidized public standpipes managed by user associations but at the same time doesn’t fight the expansion of water resellingh by private subscribers — even though it is an illegal activity. Officially denounced, those services are legitimized by their users. When they are spatially within reach, they contribute to the formation of original demands, particularly because they offer a facilitated access to drinking network water that can be combined with other sources providing water for non drinkable uses. The analysis shows how resellers, associations and users cope with this situation by designing rules of operation based on social networks, in which the economic logic is permanently overflowed by the socialization of water within local communities. This appropriation of collective connections, combining the private connections of retailers and the public connections of standpipes, plays as a mechanism of adjustment to public deficiencies and urban inequalities. In the longer run however, widespread acceptance of this situation does not make it a true social policy of access to water.

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