If you’re a regular viewer of YouTube, you’ve probably clicked on videos of street and sidewalk clearing operations conducted by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) or local government units in the metropolis, particularly in Manila and Quezon City.
These clearing operations, which have been ongoing for years now, are intended to keep the streets and sidewalks in the city free of all obstructions. That’s what we can gather from the videos themselves.
In the case of city streets, teams deployed by the traffic bureau swoop down unannounced on certain streets to either tow or impose hefty fines for illegally parked vehicles of all types, from cars to trucks, motorcycles and tricycles.
In the case of sidewalk clearing operations, which are usually carried out in marketplaces and residential areas in heavily populated areas, teams deployed by MMDA or City Hall descend on streets with dump trucks in tow and confiscate whatever they can lay their hands on.
These can include clothes and bags for sale, fruits and vegetables, flower pots, electronic goods, bicycles, parked motorcycles, as well as the stands on which merchandise are sold, without issuing any receipt for seized goods that owners can redeem later on. Where these seized goods end up is anybody’s guess.
Authorities invoke the need to bring back order in city streets and make roads and sidewalks navigable by vehicles and pedestrians.
That’s all well and good, if you ask us. We’re all for it. But only if it is implemented in the right way.
And the right way, in so far as road clearing is concerned, is for local governments to either allow pay parking in certain streets and build more multi-level parking lots where possible.
Hefty fines for illegal parking may boost local government coffers, but punitive measures and Gestapo-like tactics aimed at teaching erring motorists a lesson in observing local ordinances merely create public resentment towards government.
Punishing the poor and already disadvantaged sectors from earning an honest living by selling goods and services right on the streets and on sidewalks is cruel and heartless.
Besides, we think both national and local governments punish the poor for their own rank negligence in long-term planning.
The poor do not have the luxury of renting space to sell merchandise on the street and on sidewalks when they cannot even make ends meet on a daily basis.
And which local governments have doable and realistic economic development plans, such as livelihood generation and provision of social services for the poor, so they do not have to put up makeshift homes right on sidewalks and are able to stand on their own two feet?