The international narrative on Manila paints the picture of a metropolis full of promise. Manila is the economic and political nucleus of a Philippines national economy that is at full throttle, with a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.7% per annum and a GDP per capita of US$4,073 in 2011, adjusted for purchasing power parity. The country itself has a Human Development Index rank that is higher than its GNI per capita rank, implying that the Philippines is doing very well on non-income HDI indicators. Where the government leaves gaps in service delivery, often, a thriving civil society in Manila sets out to serve the needy. There is a plethora of non-government organisations operating in the various sectors of the city.
However, this growing megacity is not without its problems. Approximately 16.3 million people inhabit an area of only 38.55 square kilometres, which makes it the most densely populated city in the world. This density is highest in the poor areas of the city: people living in Manila’s slums have to cook, work, and share their lives with 72,000 other people per square kilometre. These people often have trouble obtaining access to the most basic amenities such as clean water, modern sanitation, and health care. Moreover, depressed housing conditions, lack of job opportunities and rampant inequality are worrying trends among Manila’s urban population.
In our 2012 special series on urban poverty, we examine whether “metropolises full of promise” like Manila are doing enough to tackle the major issues faced by the urban poor. What are the strategies applied by governments as well as non-governmental actors to assist the poor in their daily struggle?
This issue of the Asian Trends Monitoring (ATM) Bulletin looks into service delivery for the urban poor in Manila. We highlight the challenges of providing a network of functioning services in overcrowded areas with predominantly depressed housing conditions as well as some of the solutions developed by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to reach those communities excluded from government services. We also look at the different approaches that NGOs have taken in assisting the poor, ranging from direct service delivery to psychosocial counselling and support.