Oversight of public markets is on the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) via its mandate on zoning and other land use control standards and guidelines as contained in Executive Order 648. Accompanying the EO is the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on locational clearance of public markets which outlines quality standards for Philippine public markets.
The IRR covers locational or siting clearance, design standards, utility and facility requirements. It carries specific measurements such as for sewage and drainage pipelines and water supply provision.
The IRR was new information to the class (and how many people selling in and managing the public market?). The class was surprised to know that there is provision in the IRR disallowing construction of stalls and selling along the sidewalk and outside the market, and penalizing non-compliance. Stalls have spilled out on the pedestrian walk just outside the Baguio City Public Market, and for many years the LGU hasn’t done a thing about it.
The IRR specifically provides for piped water supply facilities for each stall, maintained at a pressure of 1.379 kilopascals (Kpa) or 1.379 Bar for each. It further specified that ice should come from ice plants with sanitary permit or be made from potable water supply. This got the class buzzing over how was the Baguio City Public Market given clearance considering that source and quality of water supply there is questionable. And ice chunks (used for “halo halo” and the like) are thrown from the delivery truck on the market floor (goodness) and same with the fish when these are delivered early in the morning.
I’ve seen a similar scene at Balintawak Public Market, at dawn when entering the Metro from the North Expressway. Similarly the Carbon Public Market in Cebu while a tourist haven for dried seafood is in need of rehabilitation. Actually, many of the country’s public markets are in need of rehabilitation.
I’m beginning to conclude that many Filipinos have a serious problem with sanitation.
Someone from the class said, “the problem with LGUs is they neglect to care for their own facilities while applying rigid standards on the private sector.” The comment brought to mind the Baguio Convention Center and the Loakan Airport which are both critical infrastructures for the City but are increasingly in sorry states. (I don’t know how people at City Hall can forget that the Loakan Airport was the only means of connecting the City to Metro Manila and other nearby towns in the aftermath and months after the 1991 earthquake. Without the airport, the City would’ve totally collapsed.)
The professor then asked why despite the quality standards compliance is a problem. There were several reactions from the class and mine was a reiteration of a statement I read made by a former ADB officer: “the problem is the country’s saddled with a soft State and a hard Church”. To me this pretty much sums up everything there is to say about non-compliance (starting with government itself!) to laws, policies, regulations, and standards.
Ideally and there is a management office for the Baguio City Public Market, monitoring and evaluation of the public market should eliminate non-compliance but as someone from the class said, “well, yes, monitoring’s done but it’s meant for collecting fees from stall owners.” This received a rolling of six pairs of eyes. Another said (who has insider information), “to be fair, the public market officers want to do their job well but they are threatened from doing it by certain sectors – migrants – who have stalls in the market. In this case where the choice is between your life or the life of the public market, naturally it’s your life.”
What a headache and this is just the public market!
To close the discussion, I mentioned that I got to interview somebody from CEPMO, the LGU office directly responsible for the public market. I said I asked the officer what their vision and mission was for the Baguio City Public Market, and in return received a surprised silence. Well, was I expected to ask if I could like them on Facebook? The officer eventually replied, “to give our vendors a place to sell their goods.”
I said that there is power in the vision and there is life in the words of the vision, but many go through the exercise merely for compliance and file it away afterward. If the City envisions that the public market will still play a major role in its future then it will have to continue supporting it (by crafting a mission), otherwise it might as well phase it out and turn it into a more viable enterprise. If the public market has totally lost its value to the place and people (meaning no funds will be poured into its continued existence) it is better to raze it down now (such as the case of the 800-year old Les Halles Public Market in Paris) than to have the place rot away. Of course, the decision is not one person’s but in consultation with the community.