TIMING is off.
Global pandemic is still in full swing and vaccinations had barely made a dent on target reach. With that, the renovation of old public market in the City of San Fernando should take a backseat.
Two influential leaders right in the premier city of Pampanga that I have talked to in the past few days echoed this sentiment of the people.
Former City of San Fernando Councilor and my namesake Noel Tulabut said that pushing for the facelift of the public market during this pandemic is wrong. The three-termer councilor, who had a hand in the early planning and approval stages of the project at the City Council, has to make it clear though that he is not against the construction of a new public market per se. Tulabut, who always got elected in the top field of the Sanggunian Panlungsod still has a very good following, thus commands great respect among his political peers and constituency.
Improving the old public market which early beginnings and physical set-up and system can be traced to the Spanish era is also espoused by Board Member Rosve Henson who himself is from CSFP. In fact, just like Tulabut, was also a town councilor. Both of them are engineers by profession and their observations give credence to the much needed improvement.
Henson, aside from pointing out that the P250-million renovation (construction of a new one was earlier pegged at P650 million) is not only ill-timed but may also be ill-advised, emphasized that the city government must give priority to the vaccination program over rehabilitation.
In short, it should be public health over public infra.
He made clear though that he does not oppose the undertaking especially in light of improving the decades-old crappy public market where vendors would now be given a level playing field and compete against new spacious, air-conditioned supermarkets. He actually is for a complete makeover in a construction of a new one and not just mere patch-up jobs that may be contained in renovation. But then again, it must be shelved due to “little economic activities” brought by Covid-19.
When major facelift is done, he said that there also has to be a provision of rules where vendors are also given moratorium of rental costs and other fees in order to help them recover slowly from the pandemic.
He added that there should also be a clear master list of legitimate vendors and that zoning must be implemented in order to prevent “samsaman village.”
To this, the City Government through its Information Office FB post on May 28 assured “all will be given a slot in the rehabilitated old public market.”
In an attached video clip, Mayor Edwin Santiago said that “we want to maintain a good relationship with traders and vendors. Our intention is for the common benefit of consumers, the city, market goers and the vendors.”
In doing that, Henson said: “There is a need to improve it for the vendors to survive the competition. We have to provide the necessary assistance like moratorium for few months,” Henson said over cup of coffee.
“We (renovation) have to defer it until better times,” added Henson.
He defined better times to be the moment “when most of the people got their second dose of vaccination and be allowed to get out of their homes without fear of getting sick caused by the virus.”
That is a fair stance and judgment on the part of Henson who also said that the process in getting a loan for the project (which took place prior to the pandemic) was followed by the city government and that it was presented to the Provincial Board on “ministerial basis.”
Congratulations are in order.
First, the cities of Mabalacat and Angeles for their well-organized, smoothly flowing vaccination programs.
I have personally witnessed both of their actual processes and their leaders and implementors have really factored in people’s convenience. In Angeles City College, there are clear signages of numbered steps. Ushers wearing red shirts have been well trained with politeness and courteousness, giving justice (read: honor) also to the inscription “Mayor Carmelo Lazatin” on their shirts. I dare say that with people and staff like them spread around in facilities of the city add up to the already impressive undertakings of Mayor Pogi, making it really tough and formidable for anyone to defeat him in next year’s election.
Mabalacat City, a primus interpares, struck good with a very convenient venue in SM City Clark. They are now preparing the third cinema for the surge of more vaccinees in A4 and A5 categories or business frontliners that include majority of the 120,000 Clark workers.
The cinemas have very spacious waiting/queuing floors at the lobby and box office areas. The City now also have an online registration and is tapping the Dept of Information, Communication and Technology for the system and also for the production of passport-sized vaccination cards that can be presented at airports with QR codes. Splendid job there Mayor Cris Garbo who just picked the right man Dr. Jay Rivera who, together with City Administrator Emmanuel Ignacio and the Sangguniang Panlungsod, is leading the pandemic fight under the wholistic program called CRIS (Covid-19 Response Initiative System) that also includes contact tracing, isolation and quarantine aspects in the fight and management of the pandemic.