April 18, 2024

Members of the City Council have raised questions regarding the collection of rentals from vendors who previously occupied a lot intended for the construction of the Gibraltar Satellite Market.

The vendors, numbering around 120, were the occupants of stalls that were demolished on Dec. 4, 2023 to pave the way for the construction of a four-story modernized market. This initiative is believed to benefit residents of Gibraltar and nearby barangays.

City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias said the assessment of rentals was conducted by the City Environment and Parks Management Office (Cepmo).

The occupied area was deemed to be part of a certain park, presumably Wright Park, due to its proximity to the lot in question.

Cabarrubias said the collection of the rentals has a basis in the Environmental Code of Baguio City (Ordinance 18-2016).

Upon perusal of the ordinance, it is evident that the use of parks for recreation, tourism, and economic activities is permitted, provided that concessionaires and operators of these activities pay rentals for the use of the park and acquire a business permit.

However, the ordinance does not specify amounts for the rentals of vendors or concessionaires within parks. 

The computation of the rentals is indicated in the memorandum of agreement between the city government through Cepmo and the vendors, according to Cabarrubias.

The city council requested a copy of this MOA for scrutiny and future discussions.

Market Superintendent Ceasar Emilio said the vendors had been subject to charges since 2020 for the use of the area.

However, many of the vendors were reportedly non-compliant with their payments, leading to a significant accumulation of outstanding fees over time, he said.

The affected individuals had earlier sought the help of Councilor Mylen Victoria Yaranon regarding their displacement and “unreasonably high” rental charges.

A case has been filed regarding the displacement of the vendors, which remains pending before the court to date.

Because of the ongoing litigation, the city council was unable to discuss the merits of the case in adherence to the sub judice rule.

After the demolition, the vendors were temporarily relocated to a space near Albergo Hotel, with only a number of stalls currently occupied. Notably, the city government spent P4 million for the construction of these temporary stalls.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda raised concerns regarding the legitimacy of the relocation area, emphasizing it is within the road right-of-way which violates the government’s edicts on road obstruction.

“The city government has an aggressive operation to clear roads from illegal structures, but now we are allowing the use of a space for the construction of stalls within the road-right-of-way,” Tabanda said.

City Building and Architecture Office Head Johnny Degay said the relocation is a temporary measure, with plans for vendors to eventually transfer to the first and second floors of the satellite market upon its completion.

Degay said construction is already underway and is expected to be completed at the end lof this year.

The city government had previously assured the vendors that they would be prioritized as occupants of the new satellite market. – Jordan G. Habbiling