THREE public markets in Bacolod -- Libertad, Central and Burgos -- have incurred a P40 million liability to the City Government due to the continuing non-payment of regular rentals and lease on the market stalls and blocks.

Councilor Caesar Distrito, chairman of the City Council committee on markets and slaughterhouse, bared this after a hearing was conducted on the subject.

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Distrito conducted a committee hearing on August 2 at the City Council Session Hall to gain a clearer picture of the current issues in the public markets of the city and to discuss how to address the issues.

According to the City Treasurer's Office (CTO), the city is burdened by almost P40 million collectible from the three major public markets.

The CTO had already served the demand letters to all delinquent stall and block owners to pay their arrears to avoid closure and termination of their contracts.

Central Market has the biggest delinquency as it has rental arrears amounting to P16.5 million. It was followed by Libertad Public Market with approximately P11.3 million, while Burgos Public Market has arrears of P6.8 million.

"We will study all the issues that surround the three public markets and we will eventually come up with a win-win solution to this. We want to help our market vendors, but they will also need to help the city. I will gather all the necessary data and gather all suggestions, so that we could make decisions that will benefit the city and the market vendors as well," Distrito said.

The back rentals of stall and block owners were dated as far as 20 years ago. Funds from the rentals were supposed to be used for repair and rehabilitation of the public markets.

Vendors who are paying religiously to the city are also complaining. It is unfair on their part that they pay rentals to the city but others who are not paying still continue to occupy their stalls and blocks. Non-payment of rental is a ground for termination of contract of lease with the city, they pointed out.

Distrito and Councilor El Cid Familiaran, vice-chairman of the committee on market, together with City Administrator Dr. Roger Balo who represents the Local Market Committee, will hold a series of meetings in order to come up with a viable solution to the perennial problems of the three major public markets.

"I was raised by my parents who earned their living in the public markets. Thus, I surely understand the market vendors' situation. I will make sure that we will be able to find solutions that will also be beneficial to our market vendors. We will consult them and, with the approval and support of Mayor Bing Leonardia, we will be able to come up with a very good solution to the problem," Distrito said.

They also found out that some of the stalls inside the market were abandoned by owners and there were vendors who are not given cash tickets for the spaces they occupy, he said. (Carla N. Cañet)