Domagoso’s Divisoria gambit


The new Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, minced no words when he said he will institute reforms in the capital city of the Philippines.

Domagoso’s promise to preserve and maintain the Arroceros Forest Park near city hall was welcomed by environmentalists everywhere in the country. The “last lung in the city” had been the object of interest by past city administrations bent on constructing more and more buildings in an already decaying urban jungle. The last mayor to get away with his needless infrastructure project at the expense of the forest park is Joselito Atienza.

His plan to re-open the iconic Manila Zoo as soon as it complies with the laws governing sewage disposal was also welcomed by many. A memorable Manila experience requires at least one visit to the Manila zoo in one’s lifetime.

Last week, Domagoso enforced a total road clean up in the Divisoria district of the city. Recto Avenue, the main road of the area, was completely free of the thousands of street vendors who have, for decades, reduced the three-lane roadway to a narrow, slow-moving solitary lane.

Manila’s city ordinances prohibit the use of city streets as makeshift commercial stalls.

Ambulant vendors usually found at street intersections are, however, more or less tolerated.

A photograph of the cleared Recto Avenue published in another newspaper, however, indicated that the sidewalk vendors seem to have remained in their stations.

Domagoso also revealed to the news media that a syndicate protecting the street vendors in the city has offered a daily bribe to city hall just to tolerate the trade of the illegal vendors. It was also learned that racketeers with powerful connections to city hall extort millions of pesos from illegal vendors, particularly those in the Blumentritt area in the Santa Cruz district of the city. If that is so, Domagoso has exposed the syndicate.

The clean-up drive undertaken by Domagoso in Divisoria is a welcome development. Roads should be kept clear to ensure the smooth and steady flow of traffic. When the major streets of Metropolitan Manila are unduly clogged by makeshift stalls erected by illegal vendors, the traffic mess in the metropolis worsens.

Having successfully cleared Recto Avenue in Divisoria, Domagoso should do the same with the other streets of Manila notorious for makeshift vending stalls eating up valuable road space. The list includes Blumentritt Street and Rizal Avenue up north near the Quezon City boundary; the Paco segment of Pedro Gil Street (Herran); Gonzalo Puyat Street (Raon) and the southbound lane of Quezon Avenue near Plaza Miranda in Quiapo; and Echague, Carriedo and Hidalgo Streets also near Plaza Miranda.

Unfortunately, there is the possibility that the road clearing project initiated by Domagoso will be short lived. Many organized street vendors are already pleading to the mayor to allow them to continue plying their trade because they have no other means of making a living. Their strategy is to court sympathy from both the city mayor and the public and generate enough pity so they can continue operating their makeshift stalls.

That is what happened during the incumbency of then Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada. Each time Erap’s city hall launched a road clearing operation, the illegal vendors played their sympathy card to court more liberal treatment. A vicious cycle inevitably ensues.

So far, the displaced vendors are pressing Manila City Hall to provide them with a place where they can continue their trade. City Hall should not give in to that demand. The illegal vendors were displaced precisely because their trade was illegal, and it is not the obligation of the Manila city government to provide them with another area for their trade.

If Domagoso relents on his promise to rid Manila’s roadways of illegal vendors and yields to mob rule, he will be surely suspected of having given in to the syndicates lording it over the illegal vendors in Manila’s wet and dry market districts. To avoid bad political publicity, Domagoso has no choice, therefore, but to keep the roadways free from illegal vendors, and to expose the syndicates.

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