Energy industry reform was one of the defining features of the Edsa Republic’s political economy. It involved the largest privatizations, the largest flows of fresh investment, and the most profitable arms of the largest Philippine conglomerates. As a marquee policy, it also offered a way for successive post-Marcos administrations to signal their commitment to their creditors, repudiate the state-directed orthodoxy of 20th century development thinking, and experiment with a doctrinaire form of neoliberalism.
Yet market rule broke many of its promises. Monopolization, high prices, and supply shortfalls remain, or have deepened. In abandoning grand, strategic public investment, and in prioritizing investor sentiment and creditworthiness over the quality and price of a modernizing good, energy industry reform saw neoliberalism at the household level, and likely contributed to nostalgia for the megaproject-focused approach last seen under the Bagong Lipunan.
This paper articulates a refusal against both the neoliberalization of energy under the Edsa Republic, and the surrender to “political will”, with its attendant risk of crony capitalism and authoritarianism, pushed by the Philippines’ new strongmen. I argue that electrification uniquely offers embedded lessons for disentangling public investment and commons formation from authoritarianism, debt traps, and development aggression. By listening to the expertise that had been cultivated within Napocor in the late 20th century, and in electric cooperatives in the early 21st, and by anticipating energy transitions and crises in the medium-term future, I aim to recuperate a latent developmentalism within the Philippine energy industry as a reservoir of possibility for the next revolution. I pay specific attention to efficiencies that cannot be discovered and/or distorted by the market, and to forms of resistance to centralized power that inhere within the Philippine energy landscape.
The Department of Sociology, Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University are convenors of the conference. Other institutions such as the Ateneo de Manila School of Social Sciences, Martial Law Museum, and the University of the Philippines – Diliman’s Department of Political Science are also co-convenors.
Half a century after Ferdinand Marcos Sr. put the Philippines under the grip of authoritarian rule, his son is elected as the republic’s 17th president. The election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the nation’s highest office, on the same year that the 50th anniversary of Martial Law is being commemorated, heralds a turning point in Philippine history necessitating a critical reassessment of the country’s darkest years in the 20th century. What has the historic authoritarian turn, embodied by the enactment of Martial Law, meant for the political economy of development in the Philippines? This question gathers particular significance as the return of a Marcos to national power fuels fears of historical revisionism, particularly in the portrayal of touted achievements of Marcos Sr. The deployment of political economy lens in assessing the consequences of Martial Law also enriches contemporary debates on industrialization, sustainable development, neoliberalism and global market integration, and inclusive growth.
This paper revisits the lasting imprint left by privatizations after the EDSA Revolution on the development of capitalism in the Philippines in the early 21st century, with an emphasis on path-dependence, unintended consequences, and domestic technocratic and bureaucratic actors.
Focusing on the efforts of the Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization (PCGR) in the late 1980s, it re-evaluates how a specific understanding of the state’s role in the economy was developed through the reorganization of crony- and state-owned enterprises. It proposes that consequential features of privatization were not the outcome of an ideologically-coherent liberalization. Instead, they were part of a moralized “De-Marcosification” process: liquidating crony-owned or inefficient state investments to fund agrarian reform. This practice of linking proceeds from privatizations to specific policy objectives, in the form of “special accounts”, had since proliferated across the Philippine government. Key development and policy objectives were linked to the speed and constancy of asset liquidation, and became decisive in how privatizations in the 1990s and 2000s were implemented.
It is many times larger than the average Manila home. Perched above Manila’s hypertensive roads, it gets better breeze, sunlight, and sight lines than the average Manila home; its floodlights consume more power than several average Manila homes.
The visuals of the average Manila billboard are also larger than the average Manila life—especially when they peddle condominiums, those new average Manila homes for the 21st century. They feature models with impossibly white, impossibly smooth skins, living impossibly carefree lives of minutes-away convenience from the best that the city can offer, all under impossibly blue skies.
From a messaging point of view, the average Manila billboard needs to be larger than life. It must, after all, be heard above the jostle of shoulders, the knots in our backs, and the blare of last night’s death toll—all before we heave and lurch our way onto the next billboard.
It then needs to tell, within the limits set by 216 square meters, convincing lies: small lies, about the life of grandeur possible within an eighteen square-meter unit, about how the baked air takes your breath away, or about the mysterious dues and fees that await.