Cebuanos should rally behind small ambulant vendors who so far lack the public support they so justly deserve in their fight against the privatization of Carbon Market.

The reason is simple. Not only will small vendors lose their means of livelihood but also small farmers and craftspeople will lose a no-frills trading facility (bagsakan) for their products. Finally, under-capitalized retailers and centavo-pinching consumers will miss the lowest-priced goods and merchandise of Carbon.

Carbon is iconic for its folksy (inato) culture. This will vanish as soon as it is developed into a world-class trading facility and managed by a private firm. World class means higher rent and higher prices. World class means no price haggling. World class means dressy people, no sandos and slippers. World class means no entry to the great unwashed.

Physically also, there is just no way the new market as planned by the City and Megawide can accommodate all vendors. What happens now to small fishermen who sell a pile or two of seashells in Carbon? To small vendors who sell just a few sticks of banana cue or the like? To small farmers who sell their meager farm produce? To retailers and consumers who need to buy and sell basic goods at significantly less than mall prices?

As vendors readily admit, Carbon at present is chaotic, unsanitary and in dire need of a significant dose of modernization. But not privatization. The Cebu City local government unit (LGU) should spend for its modernization because it is a public service facility. The City has the obligation to provide its constituents with a public market that is comfortable, safe, sanitary yet sells affordably priced goods. It is a cop out to let a private developer modernize it but run it for profit and not for public service. (Kudos to Carcar City LGU that funded the modernization of its central market but retained its responsibility of running it as a form of public service).

I am making this appeal for public support because it seems that Mayor Mike Rama has recently been bullheaded in pursuing Carbon’s privatization. He has stonewalled vendors who would like him to hear their side.

He says he wants Cebu City to be like Singapore which, he ought to know, is a squeaky clean city-state. I suggest, therefore, that he be bullheaded in modernizing (even privatizing) the city’s garbage collection system and refrain from being bullheaded in displacing small vendors from Carbon market. He is the mayor of these people more than of Megawide. And these people have rights he should respect. He cannot sweep them away like trash.

Which is exactly what Mayor Rama seems to be doing, sweeping them away. His motto these days seems to be: “Akoy Mayor, akoy masunod (I’m the mayor, I must be obeyed)” and/or “Wa mo mobotar nako, mag-antos mo (You did not vote for me, you suffer).” This is not the Mike Rama we know. Why he is acting like someone drunk with power is a million-dollar question.