July 21, 2024
STATE OF BLOCKS 3 AND 4 — Temporary makeshift stalls were constructed at Blocks 3 and 4, including nearby roads, at the city public market to help displaced vendors to recover from the fire that gutted the sections where they were selling. — Harley Palangchao

The city government this week has met its target to clean up and start bringing back in one week the vendors displaced by the March 11 fire at Blocks 3 and 4 of the public market.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong on March 20 expressed the city’s gratitude to the individuals and organizations that helped and volunteered in the huge task of cleaning up the debris left by the fire, providing help in cash or kind to build temporary stalls, assisting the affected vendors through cash and food relief, and eventually helping them back to their original stall spaces once the area is safe for them to reoccupy.
“The reason why we were able to make the market rehabilitation in only seven days instead of the projected three months is because of the hard work, the team work, and what we call ‘bayanihan spirit’ where everybody contributed,” he said during the regular flagraising ceremony as the city prepared to turn over the cleaned up market blocks to the vendors.
As of March 20, almost 100 percent of the burned area had been cleaned and cleared while temporary stalls are 80 to 85 percent done.
Market Superintendent Ceasar Emilio said a total of 112 original stallholders can occupy the reconstructed stalls at the left side upper level of Block 3. The vendors transferred to the area that morning.
Emilio said 141 more can return to the right side of the same level upon completion of the canvas roof installations.
The basement of Block 4 is also expected to be finished soon to accommodate the occupants.
City council members, who attended the ceremonial turnover of stalls on March 20, commended all those who helped in making the restoration possible in seven days.
However, some councilors in their March 20 session reported complaints received by their respective offices on alleged irregularities over the awarding of stall slots, bringing out again reported violations on stall lease contracts, particularly on subleasing.
Councilor Jose Molintas said it appears there is some kind of a syndicate in the public market because based on complaints from stall owners received by his office, they were given a number for a slot in the repaired area but later on somebody else was also claiming the spot.
Councilor Lourdes Tabanda also reported somebody came to her office saying when they went to claim their assistance from the city, somebody else has already signed under their name.
“What happened in the market is tragic but it revealed what is really happening there. Do you have any plan to address this situation where persons are claiming rights over the stall whereas those registered awardees are no longer there or even deceased? Do you have any intention to avoid this from happening in the future?” Molintas asked invited resource persons to give updates on the market fire and restoration effort.
City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias, Emilio, and City Social Welfare and Development Officer Liza Bulayungan have informed council members there is a master list of registered leaseholders from the City Treasurer’s Office.
But after the fire, many of those who come to claim for assistance and get their slots were actually renters who lease the stall from the leaseholders or the registered stall owners with contract with the city government.
Emilio said these actual occupants are asked to present evidence of their actual occupancy of the stall and asked to sign an affidavit stating they are renting the space from a leaseholder.
The councilors asked who between the leaseholder and the renter should occupy the temporary stall.
Cabarrubias said both the leaseholder renting out the stall and the renter should be disqualified since both had violated the Market Code and asked the city council how to properly address this issue, since the market amnesty program of the city already lapsed on April 1, 2022.
The amnesty program was enacted by the city council in hopes of ending various lease violations in the city market such as subleasing and selling of market stalls, among other provisions.
Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. said there is a pending proposal to extend the application period for the amnesty program in light of the fire incident which Cabarrubias considered as a positive move by the city council.
Councilor Peter Fianza said the priority at the moment is to restore the displaced vendors. He suggested suspending any decision as to who between the leaseholder and the actual occupant has better rights over the stall.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said the matter will be discussed further with the executive department. – Hanna C. Lacsamana with reports from Aileen Refuerzo and Jordan Habbiling