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Market jitters: Erap deals hit, defended

THE MANILA city government on Thursday defended its deals with private companies for the “modernization” of local public markets, amid protests from longtime stall-owners and vendors who fear they would be left at a disadvantage under such schemes.

About 300 vendors from Manila’s 17 public markets staged a protest rally at City Hall amid rumors that they face eviction once the joint venture agreements (JVAs) forged under the administration of Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada are implemented, starting with the Quinta market in Quiapo.

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Baby Pareñas, president of the Federation of Manila Market Vendors Associations, said the JVAs could mean less income for her and her members.

“It’s not very different from privatization. (City Hall) wants all markets to be privatized, then the stall fees will rise and we will have to pass that on to our consumers through higher prices. Vendors (who may not be able to adjust) will be forced to move to flea markets and sidewalks,” she said.

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The association submitted a position paper asking City Hall to repeal Ordinance No. 8346, which outlines the rules governing joint ventures and public-private partnerships entered into by the local government.

The paper argued that the agreements, as applied to public markets, would be detrimental to all parties. In the association’s view, the vendors would no longer have a say in the markets’ management and City Hall would be freed of any responsibility in managing these facilities.

But Estrada disputed this scenario. “There’s no privatization here; only fools would say that. We’re entering into a joint venture where the private firms provide capital for our markets. There will be no evictions. Those who have places there today will be retained. It will still be managed by a market master,” the mayor said in an interview.

Meanwhile, City Administrator Ericson Alcovendaz explained that under the JVAs, “the investors will modernize and beautify our markets. It won’t happen overnight and I haven’t seen detailed plans for the development. But after it’s finished, those who have stalls there will still be owning them.”

“In exchange for that, of course, we will give the private firms the right to have a say in the management of the market. I don’t think market fees will rise. But if they will, there will be a clear reason for that. The city still owns the market. And after 25 years of managing the market, management will be returned to City Hall,” he added.

Alcovendaz cited the Lacson Underpass in Quiapo as “a model.” It is still owned by the city government while the operators of Victory Mall (based in Caloocan) are managing the underpass and remitting a percentage of the profit to the city, he said. After 25 years, the company will return the management of the underpass to the local government.

Public information chief Diego Cagahastian said a management oversight committee will be formed for markets covered by JVAs. “The private companies will have seats in the committee, together with the city government and representatives of stall holders. The private firms will not have the sole power to manage the markets,” he said.

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Realistically, only five to seven markets in Manila could be placed under the scheme immediately, Cagahastian said. He mentioned Quinta, New Antipolo, Central, Trabajo, and Dagohoy markets.

“There’s already an agreement for Quinta, while we are talking with different companies to manage the others. For example, the mayor earlier said that the city government was talking with SM concerning Central Market,” he said.

For Quinta, the city government has sealed a deal with Marketlife Management & Leasing Corp. to modernize the market and operate it for 25 years, he added.

“The rumors (of vendors being displaced) are not true. They will be given certificates for their current stalls and they will be able to return to them once the (modernization) works are finished,” he said.

Cagahastian cited a possible reason why some stall owners were protesting. “Some of them have been renting stalls for 20, 30 years. The electric and water meters are in their name (but) they let other vendors tap into their lines for a fee. Once these markets are modernized, vendors like these will be affected since they will no longer have additional sources of income.”

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TAGS: Joseph Estrada, Manila, Metro, News, Public markets, vendors
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