By MYRA GARING & JULLANA PRINCIPE
BAGUIO CITY — Multisectoral group Tongtongan ti Umili (People’s Caucus or TTU) said the city government should take on the Baguio Public Market development to ensure the resolution of the subleasing issue and other vendors’ issues.
In a March 28 interview, TTU Chairperson Geraldine Cacho said that the city should consider partnering with market cooperatives instead of handing the project to private developers.
She said that by involving the vendors in the modernization program, the city could better understand their needs and solve the subleasing problem plaguing the market for years.
“Kung hindi niya kaya yung biglaan, phasing lang naman ang kailangan natin diyan. Hindi lang siya ma-privatize… Meron silang federations at meron silang cooperatives. So, meron silang pera, ibig sabihin at willing din sila,” she added.
(If they cannot rush the process, phasing is all that we need. As long as the market would not be privatized… From different market blocks, they have federations and cooperatives. So it means that they have money and they are willing.)
The city government opted to undertake the public market development under the Public-Private Partnership scheme and awarded the project’s original proponent status to SM Prime Holdings, Inc.
“Yung actual vendors, since sila naman ang nangangailangan, sila na ang ipapangalan dun sa mga pwesto. Kung sino ‘yung actual na nagtitinda diyan, sana sila na ang ipapangalan diyan,” Cacho said.
(The actual vendors, since they are the ones in need, the stall would be in their name. Since they are the existing vendors, we hope the booth will be theirs.)
TTU call came after a massive blaze destroyed Blocks 3 and 4 of the public market on March 11, destroying 1,700 stalls and a damage estimate of P24 million.
The fire further exposed the extent of the subleasing issue, which is considered a grave offense under the Tax Ordinance No. 2000-01, also known as the Market Code. The ordinance prohibits leaseholders from renting their stalls to other individuals.
The problem prompted the city council to approve an amnesty program for violators, which provided three months to rectify their actions. It mandated the leaseholders to terminate their agreement with the persons subleasing the area and agree on who will regain the stall. Failure to do so would render the stall vacant and open for other applicants. The program ended on April 1, 2022.
The issue resurfaced during the March 20 city council meeting when the body discussed the allocation of makeshift stalls to the market fire victims.
Vendor Tita “Glenda,” said subleasing had been a long-standing issue in the market, lamenting that the city continues to fall short of its action to stop the practice.
“Sometimes para bang nakita nila pero no action noon pa… Dati na ‘yan. Hindi na talaga na-implement na bawal ang subleasing,” she said.
(Sometimes, it’s like they see it, but there was no action even then… It’s been happening since before. It’s not implemented that subleasing is not allowed.)
“Nung naglabas kasi ng ordinance yung council dun sa amnesty sometime in 2020, marami pa rin yung hesitant na umamin na umuupa sila or bumili sila ng pwesto. Kaya itong itong naging tragedy dito sa market, ‘yun ang nagprompt sa karamihan na umamin na lang since, kung hindi sila umamin na umupa sila or bumili sila ng pwesto, wala silang chance na marelocate, eh sila naman talaga yung affected nung fire,” explained Market Supervisor Iris Mae Pilien.
(When the council passed the ordinance on the amnesty program sometime in 2020, many were hesitant to admit that they were involved in subleasing as a renter or sub-lessor. What prompted them to confess was the recent tragedy in the market. Because if they don’t admit to their violations, they will not have the chance to be relocated despite being the fire victims.)
She said that as of March 27, following the fire, 375 vendors have submitted affidavits admitting that they are subleasing or bought their stalls from the original registered owners. According to her, this is the highest rate since the city crackdown on the practice.
“From the 1,572 victims, imagine, may 300+ na nagpapaupa pala. Yung iba hindi pa umamin so hindi kami confident na yun lang yung totoong number,” Pilien said.
(From the 1572 victims, imagine there are 300+ who sublease. Others still have yet to confess, so we are not confident that is the actual number.)
She added that the city should look into strengthening existing or enacting additional ordinances to empower the vendors who cannot buy a stall and choose to rent.
One market vendor affected by the fire requested anonymity and claimed not receiving financial assistance.
“‘Yung leaseholder lang ang nagbenefit, yung nag-uupa, lalong nalugi. Kagaya ko, ‘yung inupahan ko hindi ako binigyan ni singkong duling,” said the vendor from Block 4.
(The leaseholders benefited from the financial assistance, while the renters affected by the fire suffered a greater loss. For example, I have yet to receive a single cent from my landlord.)
Cacho also expressed concern over the cash aid for the fire victims. She urged the city to ensure that the actual vendors occupying the stalls, affected by the fire, receive financial assistance, not the leaseholders subleasing the stalls.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development Cordillera said some 1,700 vendors affected by the fire would receive P10,000 cash assistance through the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation. # nordis.net