PRESIDENTS of two vendors associations told the Cebu City Council at a public hearing by its committee on finance Wednesday, March 30, a common complaint: the Carbon Market vendors were not consulted by Megawide Construction Inc. in the planning and implementation of the controversial project.

VENDORS 'EXCLUDED.' Erwin Gok-ong, chairman of the Cebu Market Vendors Multi-purpose Cooperative, said Megawide should've discussed the "phasing" of the project, particularly on closure of some streets and arrangements of stalls and what are required of the vendors in the new setting.

Winefredo Miro, president of the ambulant vendors association, said the exclusion of vendors from the planning ("kamo ra'y nagsabotsabot") is the cause of the problems the project is now facing. Miro used a Cebuano-Bisaya phrase to describe the state of the deal: "na leche-leche, na-bulibuli," which used to be an expletive but lost its sting since few people now understand it.

Megawide talked and consulted with some market vendors but they didn't know the "dynamics of Carbon market and how it works," as Gok-ong put it, or they were "sipsip or silent" representatives who didn't explain to their members what was going on, as Miro and other vendors' leaders alleged.

The committee held Wednesday's public hearing on the supplemental agreement, which was supposed to "cure" the original JVA's defects.

PROPOSED NEW CONDITION. Among the proposed terms is the provision in the extra agreement (VI, "Treatment of affected vendors and occupants") that Megawide and the City "understand and agree that there shall be no displacement of all duly registered vendors with the Market Authority" and "utmost transparency and accountability must be observed in the selection, awarding and assignment of beneficiaries, stalls and spaces of the Public Market."

Neither Archival nor the vendors’ representatives said the proposed provision in the supplemental JVA would be adequate promise in writing. The councilor may still push for a more specific promise when the committee will report its recommendation to the plenary Sanggunian.

Archival had persistently asked for a list of the vendors from MOD and vendors organizations; not all heeded the request, which frustrated the minority floor leader who wanted Megawide's promise in writing, saying city administration's change and new rulers might disregard oral pledges.

Benchmark is the inventory of vendors as of December 2020, which Gok-ong said was the scope of the late mayor Edgardo Labella's promise of security in source of livelihood at Carbon.

RENTALS, AWARD, BATO. Miro of the ambulant vendors group scored the provision in the JVA that the City would compensate Megawide for the deficiency of market income if the City wouldn't increase the stall rentals pursuant to the mechanism provided in the contract.

Miro also slammed the procedure in awarding the P5.5-billion project, alleging failure to allow competitive challenge to Megawide's bid within 30 days. Heatedly, he warned Megawide of more woes from sitio Bato, "why include Bato, it's ours."

Committee chairman Raymond Alvin Garcia disputed Miro's thinking about the compensation to Megawide if the City Council fails to adjust market rentals. Garcia, who's also Sanggunian majority floor leader, admitted that obligation of the City under the contract but, he said, it is "not self-executing," meaning Megawide would've to negotiate for it or go through a lawsuit that, he said, would take time. Not mentioned by anyone was that Megawide is given the right not to pay in full the annual share of the City to cover the deficiency. Despite any litigation, Megawide may withhold City Hall's annual share.

On the award process, Garcia knocked down Miro's claim that only 10 days were given for the competitive challenge. The councilor, who's running for vice mayor in May, said that no intent to challenge Megawide's bid was submitted within 10 days or the actual challenge itself in 30 days.

Miro talked about sitio Bato, a foreshore land, as if it were already the settlers' property. No, not until, Garcia said, the president or Congress declares the land as alienable and steps are taken to award them to the occupants. But Bato was already declared by Sanggunian resolution and ordinance as site of socialized housing, Miro earlier pointed out. Well, the City can change, apparently has changed, its mind. It may look for another site for Bato occupants, which under the JVA is solely the city's obligation, not Megawide's.

MW GOT HEAP OF THE BLAME. The JVA or contract on Carbon Market was not just the product of the labor of the PSP, private sector proponent, which is Megawide. The JV selection committee under the office of the mayor, with the City Legal Office went through the proposed contract, as a result of which the JVA was submitted to the City Council for review.

Yet, leaders of the vendors' groups who appeared before the City Council blamed Megawide alone. Kind words for Megawide came only from Zosimo Potot of the Labo Seaside Vendors who praised improvements on the condition of its members because of Megawide and from Cristie Cortes of the group of "cargadores" who said she trusts MW's promise that no "cargador," including herself who also pushes carts, would lose his or her job.

They were being respectful of the City Council, whose committee invited them to the hearing, or believed the city legislators were on their side. They forgot that their shutout from the preparations was partly caused by the people at City Hall working on the JVA. The City Council finally heard them, right? That could've been done much earlier. As Miro would say, "Di unta magka-lecheleche, magka-bulibuli."