Kurtais-paying vendors experience similar problems faced by non-paying vendors.
Christy Ngolab, a mother of three, supplies her native woven products to night vendors.
She explained that their woven materials used to sell fast. She said, “But the demand now is already low and sometimes nobody from our customers come to buy our products.”
She said she can finish 10 pieces of hand-woven décor of 10 x 28 inches, a day. Each piece is sold at P 40 ($0.84). If all 10 pieces are sold, less expenses, they can earn P200 ($4.22), just enough to cover the basic needs for one day.
There are times that even kurtais-paying vendors are prohibited to sell. “Paying kurtais is not an assurance that you can sell your wares in their area,” she explained. Under the Tax Code, kurtais is not a business permit hence they are not assured of a livelihood. A business permit is issued by the city to registered vendors, who usually rent market stalls.
The right to livelihood
The Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (Samakana- Association of United Urban Poor Women), an organization of about 250 women vendors in the city, has been lobbying for the repeal of Section 178 of the Tax Ordinance for the benefit of small vendors. They brought it to the attention of some councilors but did not obtain a formal commitment of support from them.
Section 178 imposes a penalty for violation of the ordinance: a fine of not less than P 1,000 ($21) but not more than P 5,000 ($105.50) or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months, or both.
The group is also pushing for the identification of areas for vendors and to conduct a feasibility study for support systems such as subsidies for new vendors.
“All of this boils down to one issue – our right to livelihood,” Ngolab said in her native language. She said people would still go back to selling their wares despite the anti-vending provision because vending is their only means of livelihood.
Included in those who would be affected are around 107 children who sell products such as plastic bags, balut (fertilized duck eggs) and offer shoe shine services after school or during weekends.
She said the government should consider that most sidewalk vendors belong to the urban poor. Facing threats in their livelihood is just half of their struggle; most also face eviction from their homes due to the city’s anti-squatting policy.
“How can we be assured of our right to life if support systems like our rights to a secured livelihood are not recognized?” Ngolab asked. “Respecting our rights, rather than criminalizing our only source of livelihood is what we need.”