By Susan Palmes-Dennis
ROCKINGHAM, North Carolina—As I write this, the Filipino-American communities all over the US had celebrated in their own way the birth anniversary of Gat Andres Bonifacio as part of their efforts to maintain their connection to the Philippines.
Also I was scheduled to have as guest in my program ‘Susan Live’ (new schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am every week over at RPN-dxKO TV 5 and broadcast live in their TV, radio channels and Facebook page) Atty Ban Pacuribot to talk about, among other things, the Bonifacio Day in the Philippines and maybe, just maybe, some updates on Cagayan de Oro City Hall.
I was incidentally scheduled to interview former city councilor Enrico Salcedo who was tasked by incumbent Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Rolando ‘Klarex’ Uy in leading City Hall’s relocation of 1,600 plus ambulant vendors from their former spots at JR Borja and Capt. Vicente Roa Streets and JR Borja Extension to their new allocated spaces somewhere near the Cogon market site.
Salcedo was unable to show up for one reason or another which I attribute to probably his being too busy overseeing the maintenance of order in the ambulant vendors areas which are sectioned according to dry goods and street foods sections. At any rate, the relocation of vendors is something that won’t be resolved overnight or probably even within the next few months.
As I pointed out last Tuesday (Nov. 29) in my program, things may come to a head come the homestretch of the Christmas season in December. As Mayor Klarex kept repeating time and again, the ambulant vendors were given four and a half months to follow traffic rules and keep their products within reasonable space away from the riding public who had been greatly inconvenienced by their presence.
I must say that even the ambulant vendors cannot be blind, deaf and dumb to the inconvenience that the presence of their goods had towards the commuters and the motorists and we don’t need Mayor Klarex to declare that these vendors had practically occupied more than half of the road to themselves. Yet these vendors will insist on their rights to sell even at the discomfort they cause on the riding public.
In examining City Hall’s moves in dealing with the ambulant vendor problem I did some Google searching for Bayani Fernando, the former mayor and congressman of Marikina City who if I recall was credited with transforming that city’s public market into one of the most, if not the most efficiently managed public market in the country.
His efforts at clearing the sidewalks and Marikina City’s public market of ambulant vendors was also met with resistance but eventually public support won over such resistance resulting in him being appointed as chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) where he would introduce several other reforms in traffic management that are being pursued by his successors even today like installing U=turn slots and footbridges.
Such was Fernando’s popularity in Luzon that he even ran for the presidency though was unsuccessful. Still, his efforts to clear the sidewalks of ambulant, irresponsible vendors is proof that with enough goodwill coupled with efficient, determined and effective implementation of crystal clear, yet flexible guidelines that order can be maintained in the streets without sacrificing the livelihood of these vendors.
That said, there’s one crucial element to this issue that cannot be ignored and that’s the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which hit a lot of businesses both big and small across the world. The ambulant vendors are no exception and even perhaps with their best efforts to comply with health protocols, they are more than desperate to earn extra especially during the holidays.
Again as I write this, there had been little to zero resistance to City Hall’s relocation efforts by the ambulant vendors except for some verbal threats reportedly issued by some of them during Mayor Klarex’s two-day dialogue with them. And to be fair, Mayor Klarex had been bending over backwards to their pleas, though was resolute in seeing that his administration’s relocation plan push through.
Mayor Klarex even said he’s ready to deal with the threats and I can only monitor whatever developments may come through social media feeds. Never let it be said, however, that City Hall under Mayor Klarex’s administration is taking things in stride as I received word of constant meetings with all stakeholders on the ambulant vendor problem.
For despite their frequent denials and even defensive posturing bordering on outright aggression, the ambulant vendors in Cogon market and elsewhere in the city’s public markets must realize by now that their continued congestion of the city’s streets by flooding the narrow city streets with their products won’t benefit them and the buyers they’re trying to court in the long term.
Sure they need to earn a livelihood but not at the expense of others who are also income earners like them that need to report to work and come home early. The more they remain defiant, the more they will invite public antagonism and I hope there won’t come a time when commuters, motorists and the ambulant vendors end up in violent confrontations over traffic congestion.
Not all of us can afford not to work for a living and what little effort these vendors and the riding public can spare to solve the traffic congestion will go a long way towards making Cagayan de Oro City’s streets and roads more passable and accessible to everyone. Sent from my iPhone