Local government units have begun driving away illegal vendors from Metro Manila streets to rid them of eyesore in time for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November.
This was the claim made by members of the Metro Manila Vendors Alliance , pointing out that the city government of Parañaque was the first LGU to enforce the campaign by initially cleaning the area of Redemptorist Road and dismantling push carts, steel racks and stalls of vendors.
In Manila, ambulant vendors were told by local authorities that their merchandise is prohibited even in the areas that were remote from the routes and venues of the APEC conference from Nov. 17 to 20, the MMVA said.
MMVA coordinator Flor Santos said they were informed by Malacañang “insiders” that local officials in the National Capital Region would declare a “vendors’ holiday” during the summit.
“We worry that the Aquino government will impose extra measures with total disregard for the civil and economic rights protecting the welfare and livelihoods of street vendors just to save its face from humiliation from its foreign guests,” said Santos.
“Street vendors live by a hand-to-mouth existence. To deny them their daily earnings for three entire days without any alternative livelihood or government stipend is going to kill their families in a slow and painful manner,” she added.
The MMVA said that violence erupted in the past when demolition teams of the city government dismantled stalls outside the Cebu South Bus terminal at the height of the APEC committee meetings two months ago.
The stall owners were also warned that any breach would lead to the dismantling of stalls or confiscation of their carts and merchandise, the group added.
“As the APEC preaches to address inclusive growth, to the lowly vendors, these cruel measures are living proof that they contradict their own declarations. The three-day vending ban only exacerbates the poverty they intend to eradicate,” said Santos.
Santos declared that they are committed to protecting the rights and welfare of the vendors.
“Let this serve as a warning to all notorious agencies such as the Interior and Social Welfare departments, the police, the Metro Manila Development Authority and the local mayors who threaten to impede the rights of vendors to the means of subsistence,” she said.
Lawyer Aaron Pedrosa of party list coalition Sanlakas said that government officials enforcing such measures maybe held liable for the obstruction of the right to livelihood of the street vendors under the Civil Code.
He reminded the authorities that the Philippines is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which stipulates that “right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right”.
“The Aquino government’s use of draconian measures to please foreign dignitaries at the expense of its own citizens shows his undeniable subservience to the interests of the multinational companies of which the APEC dignitaries represent”, Pedrosa said.
Both the MMVA and Sanlakas asserted that the right to gain a decent and dignified living must be encouraged and not prohibited most specially by the Aquino administration that in the first place implemented neo-liberal policies that led to massive lay-offs and the consequential sharp rise of the informal sector.
The MMVA was established in 2002 during the time of then MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando.
Last week, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said the Department of Social Welfare and Development headed by Secretary Corazon Soliman was planning to “hide the homeless” in time for APEC Summit.
During a plenary session, Ridon asked the DSWD if it would repeat its action about the 100 homeless who were taken off Roxas Boulevard and brought to Chateau Royal Batangas under the agency’s “Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program” (MCCTP) during the Papal Visit last January.
MCCTP is the part of the government’s dole out program dubbed as the Conditional Cash Transfer Program which includes programs for homeless street families, including itinerant indigenous families in urban areas.
DSWD budget sponsor Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora replied to Ridon that DSWD cannot give any commitment that they will stop the controversial outings, as the same MCCTP is still being implemented.
She added the activities involving homeless families have in fact not stopped even in the aftermath of the papal fiasco.
“I take that to mean, then, that the DSWD will be repeating this deplorable vanishing act during the APEC Summit?” Ridon retorted.
The DSWD budget sponsor replied, “The DSWD will continue with the MCCTP even during the APEC Summit, because it is the mandate of the DSWD.”
“Today, DSWD not only confirmed that the policy of hiding poor families has continued, but that they will repeat this act come November. This, ladies and gentlemen, is your shameless government that continue to resort to sweeping the escalating poverty situation under the rug,” Ridon commented.
The APEC meetings will be the second high-profile global event that the country will be hosting after the World Economic Forum on East Asia last May where the administration of President Benigno Aquino III trumpeted the Philippines as the “next Asian miracle.”