The only solution put forward by Meralco to make the expansion of its distribution grid in poor areas profitable is the implementation of a prepaid service system to avoid late payments. Prepaid electricity is presented as a social measure allowing households to monitor their consumption levels in order to save money while reducing the city’s alarming consumption rate. Yet, it mainly results in telling the poor to use less when the rich, whose contribution to the city’s carbon footprint is far bigger, maintain highly energy-consuming ways of life without any significant disincentive from the state.
In Metro Manila, despite hot weather outside throughout the year, it is common to be very cold in offices, private residences, taxis or buses. Indeed, air-conditioning serves as an indicator of social status. Unreasonably cooling down its environment enables the upper class to showcase cold weather Western clothes (Sahakian, 2010). Air-conditioning also stems from security concerns: it reflects a desire from those who can afford it to keep windows closed and isolate from the city’s polluted air and dangerous criminals, which are increasingly diabolized by President Duterte.
Few policies provide incentives for the upper class to reduce its energy consumption. In view of the numerous construction works currently underway, strong enforcement of obligatory mandatory green building regulations could significantly impact the city’s ecological footprint in coming years. But as shown previously through the example of SM Mall, sustainability is mainly a marketing strategy of “green-outing”.
Manila stands at the forefront of disaster risk in the world. If it ambitions to efficiently tackle climate change, it will have to consider coherently coordinating the battle against carbon emissions and the struggle against class disparities.
Featured image: Eco-Business Research. (2018). Freezing in the tropics. The ASEAN Air-con Conundrum. Retrived from: http://www.eco-business.com/media/uploads/freezing_in_the_tropics.pdf
Katili, A. & Boukhanouf, R. & Wilson, Robin. (2015). Space Cooling in Buildings in Hot and Humid Climates – a Review of the Effect of Humidity on the Applicability of Existing Cooling Techniques.
Sahakian, M. D. (2001). Understanding household energy consumption patterns: When « West is Best » in Metro Manilla. Energy Policy 39, 596-602.
Valdez (2017). The Benefits of Going Prepaid. Corporate partners. Retrieved from: https://corporatepartners.meralco.com.ph/products-services-and-programs/power-club-magazine/q1-2017-boosting-industrial-strength/innovations