Editorial: Dialogue

·3 min read

ON MONDAY, August 30, 2021, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (Pepp) Visayas organized a forum entitled “Jubilee for the Vendors: A Dialogue of Life and Struggle for Peace and Human Rights.” Via online platform, it was occasion for church leaders to hear the concerns of vendors’ groups and residents of Sitio Bato, Ermita who are affected by the P5.5-billion development project, a supposed joint venture between private firm Megawide Construction Corp. and the Cebu City Government.

Missing in the large strokes of the widely marketed development, perched on the tagline of “world-class, modern market,” are the nitty-gritties of vendor life. The online dialogue highlighted these concerns. The more the vendors aired their gripes, the more the discord between policy and the supposed “no one gets left behind” promise are magnified. Details of the proposed market operations have persistently revealed themselves as almost bereft of a real appreciation of ground realities.

One proposal, for instance, has something to do with a “shifting scheme” among stall owners—a three-shift rotation, as what has been told to the vendors by the City’s market operations office. This is supposedly to accommodate the volume of vendors; incidentally, revealing the fact that only the vendors with the proper documents are accounted for in the development’s design. Officials of the vendors’ groups say they number about 6,000, and that roughly excludes the ambulant vendors who are practically not in any formal listing.

Whoever proposed the “shift” scheme is either naïve in the ways of the trade or totally dismissing reality, said the vendors. Under the present set-up, vendors with heavy wares only have to move their stocks aside while waiting for the next day’s trade. Under the proposed shifting routine, vendors will have to pack up and clear the area for the next tenant’s shift. One can only imagine the physical impossibility of the routine, the vendors complained.

They are not against development, they said. But under the Megawide imagination, “Carbon,” as a trade culture or way of life, has been so scaled down in the grand design that it has become unrecognizable under the new face. In the development blueprint, just how much of that culture has been preserved? And, no, there was never a consultation, the vendors said; there was only “data gathering,” and never really comprehensive. They only knew of the development when it felt like a juggernaut rushing from ten meters away. They said they only felt there was communication only after the joint venture agreement was signed by the City Government.

We’d like to take the position of seeing the arguments as one’s word against the other, but a peek into the proposed policies and schemes seems to reveal a widening disconnect from the ground culture that is “Carbon.” The shifting schedule proposal is only one among the many that the vendors have mentioned in their dialogue with church leaders.

Ana Marie Ariosa, president of the Carbonhanong Alyansa Alang sa Reporma ug Bahandianong Ogma sa nga Nanginabuhi, said the Carbon that they wanted was merely a simple one, clean, well-organized, not too costly for the taxpayers. Everything that is “world-class” will always be expensive, she said, and an expensive Carbon will certainly have repercussions in the prices of commodities in Cebu markets being the source of most supply.

During the online forum, Ariosa asked the church leaders what they could do to help them. Advocacy and pressure on officials, said one of the participants.

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