Unless they secure health and sanitary permits, food vendors at the so-called “hepa lane” in Morayta, Manila will not be allowed to resume operation, Mayor Joseph Estrada said Friday.
Describing the serious health risks the recently shuttered yet popular street food hub poses to the public as “an accident waiting to happen,” Estrada stressed he could not wait for an epidemic to break out before doing something decisive.
“We have nothing against them having business. But in the interest of public health, we won’t allow them to return until after they have secured the necessary permits,” Estrada said, amid some opposition to the city government’s move to dismantle and drive away the food carts that many students at the University Belt patronize.
“There were reports from the past about people getting sick. This [food business] cannot be allowed. It is illegal,” Estrada added.
The so-called “hepa lane” lane owes its name to stories that the food sold there is unclean or not prepared properly, and thus could cause hepatitis and other diseases.
The mayor also warned the concerned barangay officials that he will file administrative charges against them if they will allow the return of the food stalls.
“They can be administratively charged before DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government]. They could be suspended. Anything illegal in their area, they are liable for it,” he said.
In compliance with Estrada’s directives, members of the city’s Department of Public Services and Manila Police District have been stationed since Thursday morning along R. Papa Street in Morayta to drive away food vendors attempting to return.
In coordination with the concerned barangays, Task Force Manila Cleanup chief Che Borromeo said Estrada has ordered them to continuously monitor and guard the University Belt at all costs.
“We will ensure that no illegal food vendors will be able to go back, that’s what the mayor wants,” he pointed out.
Borromeo has led a series of clearing operations on R. Papa Street. The latest was on Wednesday and targeted food stalls with no business, sanitary, and health permits.
The Manila Health Department appealed to the displaced food vendors to comply with the law.
“Just comply with the Sanitation Code, get a good and clean location, and secure the necessary permits,” MHD chief Dr. Benjamin Yson said, referring to Presidential Decree No. 856 or the Code on Sanitation of the Philippines.
The law provides that “no person or entity shall operate a food establishment for public patronage without securing a permit from the local health office.”
None of the food stalls, according to Yson, has access to clean, running water, an indication that foods cooked and served to customers, including utensils, were not being properly cleaned or sanitized.
The open-air stalls are also exposed to pollution and other air contaminants, he added.
“Automatically, when the environment is unsanitary, people could get diarrhea, gastroenteritis, hepatitis and typhoid. This would come from unsanitary water and food, and also dirty utensils,” Yson pointed out.
While food at “hepa lane” may be cheap, Yson said consumers are at huge risk of contracting hepatitis A, caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
“And if this could not be treated right away, it could lead to kidney failures,” Yson further warned.