Briones: The 180

On the go

SIDEWALKS in downtown Cebu City that used to be occupied by ambulant vendors were free of any obstruction during an inspection on Monday afternoon, Sept. 30, 2019.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III, who accompanied the inspection, was amazed by the results of the City’s clearing operation.

“I am impressed by how the mayor was able to handle them. He was able to transfer them to a more convenient place where they can earn a decent living without causing obstruction on the sidewalks and to the public. So far, so good,” Densing said after commending Mayor Edgardo Labella.

On July 29, the DILG had issued a memorandum directing all local chief executives to clear and reclaim all public roads from obstructions within 60 days.

I guess, that meant sidewalks, too. Then Densing challenged the City Government to sustain its efforts and make sure thoroughfares, and sidewalks, remain free of obstruction.

The very next day, Labella announced that he had a chat with Sen. Bong Go and sought the latter’s permission to allow the ambulant vendors to return to the sidewalks. Of course, he also asked the senator to relay the City’s move to President Duterte.

Labella hopes the President will understand. The mayor, last Monday, reiterated that his governance is one that has “political will tempered with compassion and mercy.”

And I believe him.

“I have to create a balance. I cannot allow that the pedestrian lanes will be blocked, but I have to see to it that these vendors will be given ample livelihood opportunities,” Labella said.

But let’s be realistic. I don’t know exactly how many vendors were affected by the clearing operation, but there must be many.

It wasn’t long ago when pedestrians were forced to take to the streets because they could hardly move on the sidewalks. It was Cebu City’s version of a Middle Eastern bazaar. Sidewalks were filled to the brim with vendors selling all sorts of things. Name it, they had it!

Clothes? Check. Pirated DVDs? Check. Local snacks? Check. Herbal medicines? Check. Cute puppies? Check. Prosti--never mind.

But the affected vendors appealed to Labella’s kind heart. They don’t earn enough at the Tabo sa Banay where they have been relocated, they said. What they have at the end of the day is not enough to feed their family, they said.

Labella relented.

Of course, his decision had nothing to do with the fact that those poor vendors just happen to be voters, too.

So I guess the empty sidewalks last Monday were all just for show?


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