Erap warns vendors of groups instigating protest vs. road clearing in Manila

MANILA — Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada on Tuesday warned thousands of vendors to be wary of militant groups that are reportedly backed by criminal syndicates and are inciting them to rally against road-pclearing operations in the city.

Estrada said he has received reports that unscrupulous groups are organizing street protests to derail the ongoing campaign against illegal vendors.

He said there have been reports that a purported militant group is going around, offering money to vendors to join a street protest they were supposed to hold Monday. The rally did not push through because no one joined it.

“I’m appealing to the vendors to be suspicious of these individuals instigating mass actions. Don’t become unwitting victims of these moneyed syndicates masquerading as cause-oriented groups,” Estrada said.

“Huwag na kayong magpadala sa mga grupong ito. (Do not be swayed by these groups.) Think about the general welfare of the Manileños, who are losing time and money because of traffic jams and anarchy in our streets. They are the very same people who patronize you and give you livelihood,” he said. He cited the study made by the Japanese government that showed that the Philippine economy is losing PHP3 billion a day due to missed opportunities and lost time caused by traffic jams.

The mayor pointed out that these “extortionists and syndicates who earn money by demanding protection fees” from illegal vendors are feeling the heat of the street-clearing operations.

“It is not surprising that they are attempting to make this desperate move to break our momentum,” he said.

Earlier, vegetable truckers from Benguet complained to Estrada that they shell out PHP80 a day for a bogus “business permit” and PHP300 in “intelligence fees”, aside from the weekly PHP2,800 fee, to a group of individuals operating in Recto Ave.

Estrada stood firm that he will not back down from his road-clearing campaign, which he said is “just and lawful”, despite the issues raised against it by several militant organizations.

He noted that as a leader, he has to make unpopular decisions such as this one, for the good of the majority and the city.

“For so long, I’ve been so lenient to the illegal vendors. I know how it is being poor, but sometimes, you have to see things in a wider perspective. Traffic congestion has been affecting, not just the individual motorists and pedestrians, but also our country’s economy,” Estrada explained.

Clearing operations are authorized under the Manila City Executive Order 004 or the City’s “Zero Obstruction” policy, he said, noting that vendors are issued notices before any clearing operation is conducted.

”We are only implementing the law. There’s nothing personal or any vested interests involved in it. The Supreme Court is clear – no vending is allowed in the sidewalks and public roads,” Estrada said.

Stressing that progress cannot be achieved if anarchy is allowed on the streets, he said, “Sidewalk vendors do not even pay taxes. I’m only balancing the rights of the law-abiding, tax-paying legitimate business owners and the poor sidewalk vendors.”

He said he also wants traffic-free and well-maintained roads.

There is no turning back, they mayor reiterated.

“Hate me, curse me, but I’m only doing my job, and that is to serve the interests of the general public, and the common good,” Estrada said. PNA/