In Tacloban Street Vendors’ Cycle of Woes

Evictions and violent demolitions are nothing new to Tacloban City’s street vendors who blame the government for the lack of livelihood opportunities that push them to continue with street hawking.

By Maureen Japzon

Tacloban City – After a holiday reprieve, sidewalk vendors in Tacloban City (some 570 kms from Manila) are once again facing threats of violent dispersals from the city administration. They have decided to defy the order that they transfer to a relocation site after those who tried to do so suffered huge income losses.

Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo Romualdez granted on Dec. 17 the petition of the Tacloban Sidewalk Vendors Association to continue vending until after the Christmas holiday on the condition that they voluntarily transfer to the designated market place starting Jan. 3 this year.

Vendors however said they were earning a measly P10 (about $0.18) a day when they tried the new place.

They also charged that the city’s Clean and Green Committee, which is conducting the demolition, physically assaulted and threatened the vendors. Their goods were also carted away by the dispersal teams.

Donata Labrento, known as “Mana Naty,” expressed her dismay to Bulatlat over how the city is treating the issue of sidewalk vending.

Mana Naty said in the local dialect, “Sidewalk vending is a normal consequence to the government’s failure to give or open more job opportunities, therefore it is not acceptable to us that we are being treated as eyesores and dirt subject to the clean and beautification drive of the city administration”.

History repeats itself

The city government’s eviction campaign against sidewalk vending has been a recurring a theme since 1998.

Nonoy Limpin, president of Tacloban Small Vendors Market Cooperative (TASVEMAC) recalled to Bulatlat how he and his group were “victimized” when the government demolished sidewalk stalls along Tacloban’s Old Bus Terminal in 1998, displacing more than 200 stall owners. Limpin charged that the demolition paved the way for the establishment of a big fastfood chain.

He also charged that small vendors, who were promised relocation by the city administration, have waited to no avail. Limpin vowed he and his group would support the sidewalk vendors who are now being subjected to the same campaign.

Likewise, David Sulayao, president of the Alyansa han Gudti nga Magtirinda ha Tacloban (AGHATA OR alliance of Small Vendors in Tacloban) shared Limpin’s sentiments. He told Bulatlat that the successive terms of office of Romualdez spelled out a cycle of “violent demolitions” and “untold promises to sidewalk vendors.”

Sulayao recalled a violent displacement of fish vendors on April 3 last year, which deprived them of their vending sites and incurred losses for those dealing with wet, perishable products.

Sulayao also said that the unified actions taken by the organization KAGUMA (Kahugpungan han Gudti nga Magtirinda or Organization of Small Vendors) and the support of other vendors were instrumental for the city’s decision to give back their vending sites.

He charged that every time a demolition is underway, due process is disregarded. He said the city government “must follow legal processes because all vendors will follow suit as long as negotiations/consultations had taken place considering all sides and coming up with schemes beneficial to all.”

Anita Yu, a fruit vendor along Zamora Street, told Bulatlat her dismay over the inhuman treatment of the city administration to their group. She confided that she had been losing her capital due to the displacement. She was among those who played and hide-and-seek with the demolition to avoid confiscation of her wares.

Conflicting views

City administrator Jimmy Yaokasin Jr. said in an interview with Bulatlat that it was the mayor’s order to evict vendors from the sidewalk) which we will really implement because we have to give the sidewalk back to the pedestrians.”

He also added that if the city administration give in to the demands of the vendors for the extension of their stay in sidewalk until the end of the coming holidays, they will insist again that they be transferred until valentines or holy week or fiesta.

On the other hand, lawyer Arvin Antoni, who is also the floor leader of the city council, expressed sympathy with the vendors.

“Sad to say, the city is not applying appropriate solutions, [the demolitions] will not solve it (the problem) as it is a formula for chaos in the streets …which I hope would only be verbal and not physical…We [city councilors] have thought of a solution, but this is not being implemented by the administration.” He was Antoni was referring to a city ordinance regarding ambulant and sidewalk vendors.

Congressional inquiry

Mana Naty said her group would sponsor a petition campaign to support not only from other vendors but from the whole city. She plans to submit this to all concerned government agencies, including the House of Representatives to resolve not only the plight of Tacloban vendors but also to review government laws and policies which are used as excuse for the displacement of thousands of vendors nationwide.

Mana Naty said they want a long-term solution to the vendors’ plight, especially the prioritization of people’s livelihood over infrastructure projects.

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