BY FREDA MAE SORSANO
ILOILO City – “No privatization will take place,” declared Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog as he started his dialogue with central market vendors yesterday.
The mayor’s declaration was met with thunderous applause from over 250 central market vendors who trooped to the city hall to know for themselves the city mayor’s plans for the market.
At the end of the dialogue, the vendors appeared satisfied with Mabilog’s assurances.
“This time, issues were clarified,” said Benjie Beñigan, owner of Popoy’s Batchoyan at the central market.
He said yesterday’s dialogue was far more effective in clarifying the specifics of the Central Business District (CBD) project than the one held last week.
Rosy Rusio of Rosy’s Entrepreneur echoed Beñigan’s sentiments. “The dialogue was effective. The mayor was very accommodating,” she said.
Mabilog clarified that the CBD will still be under the city’s ownership.
“Ang private partner ang mapatindog pero ang gobyerno man gihapon ang tag-iya,” he stressed.
Mabilog assured the vendors once more that there will be no arbitrary increase in rental fees.
Only the city government, through the City Council, can determine the rates, he stressed.
“I believe the mayor,” said Beñigan. “Now we have peace of mind.”
Mabilog also denied rumors that the city government is rushing the project.
“Wala kami nagadali. We are considering a lot of things. In fact, we are on our fourth bidding attempt already. Three previous biddings failed,” he stressed.
Mabilog also appealed to the central market vendors: “Do not listen to reports saying the market will be privatized and the rents will go up. There is no truth to that. Ginapahog lang kamo para magpati kamo sa ila.”
“I am the mayor. Listen to me,” Mabilog added.
Mabilog said a 2007 study is the basis for the project.
The study had the following suggestions:
- The Central Business District may have two floors or higher, but the first floor must remain as a space for market vendors.
- The central market façade must stay the same to preserve its historical importance.
- There must be a parking area for visitors.
- The rental fees for the market vendors will stay at the current level.
- Only the city government will have the power over the vendors’ rents.
Vendors have been complaining of not being consulted about the project. Mabilog yesterday promised to update them constantly.
Another question raised during the dialogue was: Is it necessary for the city government to look for a private partner? Can’t the city government afford the project on its own?
Mabilog answered, “If we really want, we can. Pero utangon naton. Having a private partner therefore is the best option we have.”
The vendors said smaller towns like Oton and Pavia in Iloilo province managed to have their markets improved without a private entity’s assistance.
Mabilog said the CBD is a much bigger project, comparable to those in Marikina City and Mandaluyong City in Metro Manila.
He also assured transient vendors that they will have a place in the Central Business District.
“But they have to register with the Committee on Market,” Mabilog said. “We will get the number of transient vendors so we’d know how many stalls to reserve for them.”
The mayor also said that during construction, vendors will be relocated along Maria Clara, Aldeguer, Iznart and Guangco streets.
The temporary stalls will be shouldered by the private partner.
“We will make sure that the temporary stalls would be safe and fit for the vendors,” Mabilog said.
Also present at the dialogue yesterday were Sangguniang Panlungsod Committee on Market chairman, Councilor Rodel Fullon-Agado; Councilor Plaridel Nava, City Legal Officer Daniel Dinopol, City Health Officer Urminico Baronda, Engr. Carl Quimsing from the City Engineer’s Office, City Planning Office chief Butch Peñalosa, City Veterinarian Tomas Forteza, Christina Octavio from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, and Ely Sumaray, the central market in-charge./PN