Whose Vision, Which City? Urban Planning and Informality in Manila

Mr. Reden Recio1

1University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Since the beginning of Spanish colonial occupation in the 16th century, Metro Manila has been the Philippines’ primary urban region. It has attracted rural migrants looking for better economic opportunities. Many migrants have ended up living in informal settlements, working as street vendors, informal transport drivers, home-based traders and waste pickers. State officials often see these self-organized practices and informal spaces as a form of ‘urban blight’ that requires serious government intervention. In this paper, I interrogate how state authorities (dis)place self-organized strategies of the poor in their imagined urban utopia. I examine the broader aspirational agenda as well as specific techniques of implementation that shape the planning interventions involving informality issues in Manila. Unpacking the grand urban narratives and planning approaches is critical to understanding how urban citizenship and rights are framed and exercised in many unequal Asian cities.


Redento Recio is a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Informal Urbanism (InfUr) research hub. Before joining InfUr, he worked with academic institutions, development NGOs and social movements in the Philippines. His research interests include urban planning and governance issues, informal economic activities, collective action, and social inclusion policies.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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