Greater public interest

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Memorandum Circular 47, series of 2013 issued by former Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa encouraged government agencies, instrumentalities and local governments to support the crafting of short-, medium-, and long-term programs and plans that will sustain the identity of Boracay and Baguio City as premier tourist destinations in the country. This led to the creation of the Baguio-Boracay Re-development Task Force to identify the prevalent problems in the said destinations and recommending the appropriate solutions that will maintain the sceneries of the said places.

The members of the task force secretly visited Baguio city and found that one of the challenges in the city then was the proliferation of ambulant vendors that constricted major roads, streets and even various portions of the public market which itself was also considered an eye sore by the team. The presence of the vendors in the city’s central business district then is because their presence in market was tolerated by several administrations as far back as people can remember. Further, they pointed out the presence of the ambulant vendors also causes the increase in crimes against property, particularly pickpocketing, among other similar incidents, because vendors constrict the passageway making it difficult to run after pickpockets. This creates a bad image for the city.

Despite the perceived negative effect of banning the ambulant vendors from the streets on the political careers of our leaders who opted to strictly implement the city’s anti-peddling campaign, the local government embarked on a massive clearing of roads, streets, parks and even major portions of the public market from the illegal peddling activities. This ensured the wider pedestrian space around the central business district. Moreover, the local government did not simply drive away the vendors but it strengthened the night market as an alternative vending opportunity for the displaced ambulant vendors. The ground floor of the newly rehabilitated Block 4 market building has also been offered as the relocation site for the affected vendors to enable them to legitimately pursue their livelihood instead of playing cat and mouse with law enforcers and members of the city’s Public Order and Safety Division (POSD).

It cannot be denied that there are lapses of some law enforcers and members of the POSD. However, this should not be taken against the city’s aggressive anti-peddling campaign if we are to be serious in efforts to make the market a place of pride and a showcase of the city. The grandstanding of some members of the local legislative body using the issue of some excesses of individual POSDs is seen as electioneering. While the said officials view their actions as part of advancing their political ambitions, other observers see these as indicators of power-tripping once these politicians are in power. A number of people observing the proceedings fear Baguio City will go to the dogs once politicians tolerating illegal activities will come into power, thus, the need for our voters to scrutinize the private and public lives of our aspiring politicians before casting their votes.

We believe residents and visitors alike are enjoying free access to our roads, streets, parks and the public market because of the political will of our current leaders to implement the recommendation of the Baguio-Boracay Re-development Task Force to free the same from the proliferation of ambulant vendors. No less than the ambulant vendors publicly admitted they continue to play cat and mouse with the law enforcers and POSD personnel as they have to meet their daily family needs.

Raising issues on rules of engagement at this time seems grandstanding as the same had been pending with them for a good number of years. In fact, they themselves approved resolutions urging the local chief executive to intensify the implementation of the anti-peddling campaign in the city’s central business district area. The local legislative body also approved the guidelines on the confiscation of goods of apprehended ambulant vendors illegally peddling in prohibited areas around the city. It is unfortunate that the same body that approved the legislations is now doing acts contrary to what they have approved. What gives? Election is near.

We should remember the public deserves to pass through obstruction-free roads and public places free from nuisance. People do not deserve politicians who ride on issues only to advance their political ambitions. They want leaders whose intention is to serve the greater interest of the public.

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