Street vendors, or popularly known in the Philippines as sidewalk vendors, oftentimes play cat-and-mouse with authorities from local governments and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
There is a story about a single mom who sells toys with the help of her three daughters. They set up makeshift shop in front of a bank at the close of its office hours. But they are always on alert for clearing operations.
She says to prevent her children from possibly getting trauma, she lightens up their “escape plan” by sending the instruction in the form of a joke. “O alam ninyo na mga anak ha, run.”
If they get caught, the merchandise are confiscated and not returned. “Inuutang lang po naming puhunan nyan.”
She admits that street vending sans permit is illegal, “pero wala kaming magagawa. Yan lang ang alam kong paraan para mabuhay ko ang mga anak ko at mapag-aral ko sila.”
This brings us to the conclusion why illegal vendors abound and growing in number, especially in these difficult times when jobs are becoming scarce and most businesses are closing down.
Just recently, the MMDA conducted clearing operations along rounds leading to cemeteries in Metro Manila, hitting hard on illegally parked cars and vendors.
Local governments continuously operate against sidewalk vendors, yet they don’t diminish. They are actually multiplying in numbers.
In a Third World country like the Philippines, small-time selling on the streets or even at home (Sari-sari store) will never go away. Even in developed cities like New York, street vendors are a natural urban sight.
With most people still recovering from the debilitating effects of COVID-19 pandemic on their families’ economy, the government should go easy on those who would like to sell on the streets for a living.
There should be more expanded regulations, more permits to be issued. Ambulant taho or fish ball vendors can be issued IDs by the local government for security and sanitary purposes.
Their operation may be set at a certain time. Theire locations can be set, too. Think of every conceivable regulations just to create a balance between chaos and economy.
Somebody said a business without a sign is a sign of no business.
Imagine Quiapo and Divisoria, which cater to an underground economy worth millions of pesos, without street vendors. Without the makeshift stores that extend to the roads.
Street vendors help make the economy work. They deserve dignity, too.