By Ben Serrano
After last Monday’s rally, the Butuan Muslim and Christian Vendors Association (BMCVA) warned of more protest actions as it continued to oppose the local government’s drive to clear the city’s sidewalks of vendors and obstructions for pedestrians.
Angie Budiongan, an official of BMCVA, said their decision to stage more protest rallies in the coming weeks was reached after Butuan Mayor Ronnie Vic Lagnada purportedly snubbed and ignored their repeated request for a dialogue to find a win-win solution to resolve the issue.
“Despite our efforts to reach him since March and during our rally yesterday when we went to the city mayor’s office to talk with Mayor Lagnada , only the assistant city administrator entertained us. We were never given the opportunity to talk to him,” she lamented.
She said all they wanted was to seek audience with Lagnada to air their plight and asked for amendment to
City Ordinance No. 5267-2017, which banned and regulated sidewalk and ambulant vending in the city’s sidewalks.
“The ordinance was passed in June this year but as early as March this year they already started series of demolition, dispersal. We are not against any law, all we wanted were consultations which are pre-requisites in making city ordinances or any laws then provide us alternative livelihood if it’s no longer allowed,” she said.
On Monday, around 300 street vendors staged a rally in front of the Butuan City Hall to protest the implementation of the ordinance, which they claimed war marred by maltreatment and harassment from members of the enforcement team.
The protesters, who have been ousted from various locations in the city said the local government was taking away their livelihood, calling the measure “anti-people and anti-poor.”
But Butuan City spokesperson Eldie David has denied allegation the local chief executive “snubbed” the vendors when they went to the former’s office several times.
David clarified the Lagnada administration was really concerned about the welfare and safety of vendors who have been affected by the ongoing citywide cleanup operations.
In fact, two relocation sites- at the bus and van terminals were established by the city government where the street vendors can sell their goods, he said.
Amid the criticisms, David said Lagnada was determined to implement the ordinance at all costs, he said.
Former City Councilor Serge Pascual has thrown his support behind the embattled street vendors.
Pascual said although city’s street and main thoroughfares are beyond the commerce of man, ordinances “must be balanced” to the needs and welfare of vendors, who are considered poorest of the poor whose means of livelihood depend solely in street vending.
Pascual added, that unlike Metro Manila which is already congested, overcrowded already, what is needed in Butuan are mere regulations of street vending and that government must find ways to relocate them in areas accessible to public and buyers.
“What is their to sell also if you place these vendors very far from public?” he asked.