‘Sorry,’ Erap tells vendors
Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has turned down the request of a group of sidewalk vendors to be allowed to operate at the Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard and within Rizal Park.
Estrada said he would violate the law if he issues hawker’s permits to the vendors, who earlier protested at the Manila Police District headquarters and complained about the alleged extortion activities of several Ermita-based policemen.
“As much as I want to help you, I cannot allow you [to sell at Baywalk] at this time,” he told the vendors affiliated with the urban poor groups Kadamay Manila and United Vendors Alliance during a dialogue at city hall last Friday.
Still, Estrada offered the vendors a glimmer of hope: “We will consider it. We will find ways to help you, find a suitable place for you. But for now, please listen to me. You cannot sell there yet.”
Estrada admitted he allowed the vendors back then to operate in Luneta and Baywalk upon the request of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which came up with a livelihood program to provide vendors with uniform food carts.
The program failed though, Estrada said. “From then on, we never allowed any vendor in those areas.”
Explaining his decision, the mayor stressed he must also consider the rights of motorists and pedestrians affected by the proliferation of vendors along the sidewalks and roadways, as well as those of legitimate business owners.
“I’ve been honest with you. If I can do it, I’ll do it,” he said. “Those areas are part of our Tourist Belt and we want to keep it clean and traffic-free.”
However, the vendors said several members of the MPD-Ermita Station had been forcing them to pay P100 to P200 daily, threatening to drive them away from the Baywalk if they refuse to do so.
The vendors claimed they paid P1,500 for a hawker’s permit signed by no less than Estrada, which the city’s Bureau of Permits dismissed as spurious.
Bureau of Permits Chief Fortune Mayuga clarified that as a policy, no new vendor’s permits have been issued for Baywalk and Luneta areas.
The entire Manila portion of Roxas Boulevard, Mayuga stressed, is a vendor-free zone.
“If they say they’re from Baywalk, which they claim they were, the city has not issued, last year or this year, permits to vendors because the mayor [Joseph Estrada] doesn’t allow it,” Mayuga said.
“We do not allow vendors in any park. Baywalk is considered a park, so we don’t know what they are saying about having a permit,” she stressed.
While leaving the investigation of the extortion charges to the MPD, Mayuga said last Tuesday’s “assembly” of the protesting vendors would make it illegal.
“They don’t have a rally permit and we never received any single application from them,” Mayuga added. “Regardless if their accusation is true or not, we really have no idea who’s giving them permits.”
The vendors said several members of the MPD-Ermita Station had been forcing them to pay P100 to P200 daily, threatening to drive them away if they refuse to do so.
They identified the officers allegedly involved in the racket as SPO2 Marvin Velasquez, SPO2 Romel Santos Alfaro, PO3 John Gaviola David, PO3 Leo De Jos, and PO2 Romeo Rosini Jr.