HELPLESS IN BACLARAN

PARANAQUE CITY, December 26, 2003  (STAR) By Nikko Dizon And Edu Punay - The illegal vendors are back on Redemptorist Road in Baclaran, Parañaque City and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Bayani Fernando is exasperated.

"Wala e, we’re left all alone to drive them away," Fernando told The STAR Wednesday.

Fernando said the MMDA will continue its sidewalk clearing operations in Baclaran, but would focus on keeping the main road beside the Redemptorist Church open.

The sidestreets would most likely be left to the illegal vendors.

"We have limited personnel compared to the number of illegal vendors," Fernando said.

He noted that illegal vendors would come back after they are driven away.

The MMDA chief noted that the "public’s confusion" over the rules is what keeps the vendors’ business alive as well.

"The public keeps buying from the illegal vendors because they are confused," Fernando said. "Everyone should think that selling on the streets is against the law. Pero may nagde-defend pa sa maling kaisipan."

He lamented the local government units (LGUs) could have helped in informing the public on the rules.

"(But) Wala ang LGU to say that what they are doing is wrong," he said.

On the issue, Fernando has locked horns with Parañaque City Mayor Joey Marquez and Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.

Atienza implemented organized vending program in Manila, where there are designated streets and areas for vending.

Marquez, on the other hand, supported an "Agro-Industrial Fair" for the vendors in Baclaran, which prompted Fernando to seek a temporary restraining order against the city government before the Supreme Court.

Redemptorist Road has been "owned" by vendors for decades now. It was only when the MMDA launched an all-out war on street obstructions that the area cleared, even if only temporary.

Upon assuming his post in July 2002, Fernando launched the campaign to bring back the streets to pedestrians and motorists, emphasizing that no less than the Supreme Court has ruled that "streets are beyond the commerce of man."

A member of the clearing team agreed with Fernando that there are simply too many vendors.

"We can no longer control them. We tried to clear the road so vehicles can pass but we are simply overpowered," he said.

Some operatives said they are also wary of attacks by vendors.

One enforcer said the vendors would employ dirty tactics. "They would initially be cooperative, but later attack us from behind," he said.

The vendors started returning last week and were in full force the other day, when people were making last-minute purchases for gifts.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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