CEBU, Philippines – Renato Rosito, 67, grew up amid the hustle and bustle of the Queen City’s oldest and largest wet market, the Carbon Market.
As a vendor, he spent most of days selling his wares, mostly kitchen needs, to people from all walks of life in an old, dilapidated stall in the Warwick Barracks of Carbon.
“This place is a center of trade in this region. People from Bohol, Leyte, and even in Mindanao, will go to Carbon, buy our wares ,and sell it back in their places,” he said.
Rosito told Rappler how many Carbonhanons who became successful would return to the market just to eat and pass time, as it was a place that they could call home.
This is why when the city demolished at least 80 stalls in Freedom Park on July 18, Rosito could not help but rally with fellow vendors against the city’s plans to “clean up Carbon” and develop the area.
Carbon-hanong Alyansa, a local vendors’ group, estimates the city government’s joint venture with Megawide Construction Corporation will displace an estimated 8,000 vendors.
Rosito, a former barangay captain, questioned the way the project was conceptualized and approved, pointing out how there was minimal consultation with the vendors.
“It runs in contrast to the principles I’ve learned in governance. And if it’s against those principles, then the people will also oppose,” Rosito said.
Private developer Megawide Construction Corporation has denied this in an earlier statement sent to Rappler, saying the current system of rentals and daily collections will remain.
Pedro Deligero, a 58-year-old porter, also questions a rehabilitation program that he fears could harm the principal stakeholders.
“Ingun sila baho daw diri pero naay mga gipadako nga mga doctor, mga abogado, mga pulis,” he said.
(They say it smells really bad, but there are doctors, lawyers, and cops who were raised here)
The Carbon Market has been around for more than 100 years, accommodating more than 16,000 vendors and around 700 families in Sitio Bato, Barangay Ermita.
If it wasn’t for Carbon, Deligero said, he wouldn’t have been able to provide for his five kids all the way from preschool to college.
With demolitions for the P5.5-billion development project in motion, many vendors worry if they will still have their selling spaces once the new market is completed.
Based on the JVA contract entered into by the city and Megawide, there would be at least three major changes to the market.
First, the stalls in the Freedom Park, Warwick Barracks, and nearby areas would be demolished so that Megawide can rehabilitate the area and build a commercial district.
Second, vendors who registered with the Market Operations Division (MOD) would be allocated stalls in the new Carbon Market building. Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama has also ordered MOD to “clear up” roads beside the said building.
Lastly, the government would be obliged to amend the Cebu City Market Code of 2017 to reflect the terms set by the JVA, which include the increase in rent and collection of fees by Megawide.
The city government has already begun the relocation of ambulant vendors to the interim market and the path along Calderon Street while the construction is ongoing.
It’s not just vendors who are affected by the demolitions. Generations of Cebuanos see Carbon Market as part of their heritage, a place that has witnessed the triumphs of residents and their struggles during tough times.
Market Administrator Wendell Cenas said in a statement that the increase in rent would not yet take effect for the next three years.
Back to square one
It is a bitter pill for vendors like Teresita Padernal who worry about what happens when the three years are up.
Padernal has sold flowers in Freedom Park for more than two decades. It was only recently that she managed to gain ownership of the stall she had been leasing.
Now, it pains her to know that she might have to pay more in rental fees again just to continue her livelihood.
“Ang feedback nga nadawat namo kay mukapan P1,000 a day pero dili pana [final] kay wala pa sila meetinga,” she said.
(The feedback that we got was that it would reach P1,000 a day but it’s still not [final] because they haven’t had a meeting on it yet).
The Cebu City mayor has tried to soften resistance by agreeing to review parts of the JVA that vendors find the most onerous.
In the meantime, Padernal and her fellow flower vendors have positioned themselves along the cramped pathways of Magallanes Street in Cebu City, wondering how and where would they go without their stalls.
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