Carbon vendors ‘worry, complain’

THE Cebu City Council has started tackling the proposed amendment of the Cebu City Market Code of 2017, which was filed by Councilor Renato Osmeña Jr., who chairs the committee on markets.

Around 5,000 vendors at the Carbon Public Market in Barangay Ermita are worried about the proposed increase of rental and market entrance fees, as well as the plan to let a private entity collect the fees.

Leaders of vendor associations and other stakeholders expressed their reservations to some of the stipulations in the proposed ordinance at the public hearing during the council’s regular session last Wednesday, May 3, 2023.

They are particularly worried about the proposed rent and market entrance fee increase and the fee collection to be done by C2W.

Winefredo Miro, president of the ambulant vendors association and vice chairman of the Carbohanong Alyansa, said that once the fees go up, there will be a domino effect that will affect the prices of goods sold at Carbon and other satellite markets whose vendors buy their supplies at the city’s largest public market.

“Tungod sa pag-amendar basin mumahal na ang Carbon (Maybe prices will go up in Carbon because of the amendment),” he told members of the legislative body.

Changing definition

Miro was also concerned about the proposed change of definition of the term ambulant vendor, emphasizing that some members of his group, including him, have yet to receive a certificate of recognition.

He said the City only distributed the certificates that were signed by C2W deputy general manager Lydwena Eco and former Market Operations Division head Irvin Cabales to stall owners.

On Sunday, May 7, SunStar Cebu tried to get the number of vendors, both stall owners and ambulant, who have been given the certificate of recognition, but was told the data was at the office of the Market Operations Division.

But based on previous reports of SunStar Cebu published on July 31, 2021 and Sept. 24, 2021, 161 stall owners and 30 ambulant vendors were given the certificate of recognition.

With the change of administration after the May 2022 elections, Miro asked the councilors if the approving body of the certificates was the same.

Cebu Vendors Credit Cooperative vice chairperson Ma. Victoria Abellana said her group would want the fees in Carbon to stay the same, but if these need to be raised, she asked the council to only implement the new rates when the whole market redevelopment project is completed.

“Okay nalang kaysa di ta patindahon… di mi mosupak (pero) muhangyo lang mi nga sa pagkakaron, di lang sa increase-san mintras wa pa mi nahimutang,” Abellana said.

(It’s better than not being allowed to sell in the market… we won’t object to any increase but we are asking for the new rates to take effect only when we are finally settled.)

Abellana also asked the proponent of the amending ordinance to reconsider the rates, especially the market entrance fees, as some of these are higher than the vendors’ earnings.

Fee collector

Erwin Gok-ong, president of the Carbon Market Vendors Development Cooperative, echoed Miro and Abellana’s sentiments.

However, he was more worried that the C2W would be in charge of collecting the fees.

He said the City should not delegate the power of taxation to a private entity, unless there is a contract to privatize Carbon.

One of the fundamental principles under the Local Government Taxation is that the collection of local taxes, fees, charges and other impositions shall in no case be let to any private person.

Section 170 of the same code also states that the collection of local taxes, fees, and charges shall be collected by the provincial, city, municipal, or barangay treasurer, or their duly authorized deputies. The local government unit may designate the barangay treasurer as the authorized deputy.

Gok-ong said the City should continue collecting the fees and then give C2W its share of the revenues.

Ermita Barangay Captain Mark Miral, for his part, said there should always be consultation whether the council approved the proposed ordinance or not.

“Okay ra mangolekta ang Megawide, (but) like increase of rentals, same gihapon, consultation gihapon ta kay mas nindot man gud kung ang gobyerno mudala sa Carbon,” he said.

(It’s okay for Megawide to collect, (but) like an increase in rentals, it’s still the same, stakeholders will still have to be consulted. That’s why it’s better if the government manages Carbon.)

When asked by Councilor Nestor Archival if he had a copy of the complete redevelopment plan, Miral said he didn’t have one.

The barangay captain then appealed to the council not to include Sitio Bato in the redevelopment plan as it may displace around 2,000 families living in the area.

‘Financial disadvantage’

SunStar columnist Orlando Carvajal, who chairs the Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors, a nongovernmental organization engaged in community organizing, said during the public hearing that the revision of the City Market Code would “unreasonably put Carbon market stakeholders, that’s all of us, at a great financial disadvantage.”

In a joint venture agreement (JVA), Carvajal said the contribution of both parties should also be joint, or else the party with a higher contribution to the capital of the project will have the controlling power.

“It can be safely assumed that the City is putting more capital into the project than Megawide. The goodwill value alone of Carbon is big enough to overcome any other contribution of capital,” he said.

All the speakers at the public hearing had a single common denominator: they appealed to the council and to the proponent to reconsider and conduct further study on the proposed amendments.

Carvajal asked the councilors to read again the JVA and the amending ordinance of the City Market Code “to see that it’s very detrimental and deleterious to small people.”

Needs study

Gok-ong said the revision of the City Market Code needs deeper study, considering the formation of the ordinance, in which he was part of, took three years.

“Nahadlok ko nga dili na nya na siya Carbon (I’m afraid it won’t be the same Carbon that everybody knows),” he said.

Archival, a member of the opposition, agreed with Gok-ong that Carbon market is for everyone and it might not be the case anymore when the new rates take effect.

“I agree nga ang Carbon para sa tanan, but I’m afraid nga kung musaka, di na nya ni para sa pobre, di na para sa tanan. We need to do more research kay dili pobre makabenepisyo ani,” said Archival.

(I’m afraid that once the rates go up, Carbon will no longer cater to the poor and to everyone. We need to do more research because the poor will not benefit from this proposed amendment.)

Councilor Phillip Zafra said the Carbon redevelopment project only aims to provide a safe and orderly market for vendors and the public.

Osmeña took note of all the concerns and suggestions raised, saying he would take into consideration what had been discussed to improve the proposed amending ordinance.

“It’s my fervent hope we could come up with a holistic and participative approach in running our market,” he said.

The proposed revision of the City Market Code was introduced after the City signed a JVA with C2W.

Councilor Rey Gealon explained that the proposed amendments to the City Market Code were introduced to serve as ancillary to the JVA in which the City is “legally bound to comply with the terms and conditions.”

Councilor Mary Ann delos Santos reminded council members to look into the concerns that were raised instead of focusing on complying with the JVA entered into by the City.

“It’s true that we are bound by this JVA, but this is just a reminder to all members of this august body that it is the problem with being too legalistic, some people are excessively concerned with laws to the neglect of the real intention,” she said.