In the first part of this series, I wrote about how Cebu lost to Camsur and started to point out some of the issues our local government needs to address if we are to regain our top spot in tourism.
Here, I continue with some more issues…
The problem with street vendors. I remember a long time ago when then Mayor Osmena tried to “clean up” the street vendors outside the Basilica to ease up the traffic. The best they were able to do was convince these vendors to set up shop within the yellow railings and not overflow into the streets. Now, there are no more alleyways for pedestrians. Although pedestrians plying the area behind the Basilica (D. Jakosalem) do not cause as much traffic anymore it is still the same difference.
This rather ineffective compromise brings to mind the street vendors of Colon. It was 2007 if I am not mistaken when the 12th Asean Summit was held in Cebu, what the City Government did was to gather these streetvendors, organized them (although by that time, they may already have unions themselves), wooed them with Christmas gifts and then, tried to paint all their stalls an ugly yellow and green. The best they ever did was to organize these stalls INTO the pedestrian lanes again, causing very tight pedestrian traffic that’svery conducive for snatchers and pickpockets.
Colon was then branded as “Chinatown” where chinese lanterns were hung and students from Chinses schools were asked to line the streets and cover the not – so – nice spots. They even had “fake vendors”. Actors and actresses dressed in Chinese costumes pretending to peddle fruits and other items. It was a show.
Why not put something in place to ensure long term, sustainable development in protecting Colon? I cannot help but admire how Senator Gordon have turned Subic around, and in so doing, he was also able to provide for jobs for his people. My proposition is not to kick these vendors out of the streets, but rather, in trying to clean up Colon, maybe we can provide jobs for them instead? Just about now, we are in dire need of garbage collectors, street sweepers, traffic enforcers, police, etc. Why not make these available to them as an alternative. Also, I cannot help but notice there are many vacant spots and uninhabited buildings in the downtown area. Can we not organize these vendors into these instead? Maybe swap deals with the land and building owners? I am reminded of Tutuban, Divisoria and Baclaran with their airconditioned buildings where vendors are organized.
REp Osmena can be iron fisted. I grew up in Sanciangko and cannot forget how the Tartanillas and all their Kutcheros were unceremoniously banned from plying the city streets. owing to the traffic they cause. Rep Osmena then, did not have any care for whatever happened to them. I should say, if he or Mayor Rama exercises the same will with the Colon street vendors, I don’t see why Colon cannot be restored to its old glory. I believe, all these years, Osmena and Rama, just plain did not care.
Traffic in Colon? Just like the tartanillas, the vendors and the pedestrians, traffic is caused just as much by the jeepneys whose official routes cross Colon Street. It is ironic how, after trying to address the traffic problems in downtown Cebu many years back, now Rep Osmena is regressing. There was a proposition for a rail transit system to be put up, and he blocks it and criticizes it a whole lot. The SRP, which could be a very good alternate route for public transport going south, is exclusive to private vehicles only. Again, Osmenas mandate. Instead, what Rep Osmena is supporting is a bus system to add to the already jeepney congested downtown streets.
Police visibility. I wonder what policemen do. This is because, other than those we see inside precincts or in patrol cars we see, I don’t see them anywhere at all. Tourists, especially western ones visiting Asian countries, are very concerned about safety. If we are to position Cebu as a world – class destination, we need to go all the way. Where are the policemen? I remember my first time arriving in NYC, I emerged from a subway unto Bryant Park or 42nd street(I am not sure anymore), I had a terrible time finding my way to my hotel and all I needed was ask a policeman. A single block can have as much as 8 policemen, a pair for each side. That is not mentioning the street cameras. I cannot believe that NYC had the highest crime rate over 15 – 20 years ago. I felt very safe walking its street and even the subways. Recently, I see kiosks around the city, ostensibly to house police personnel. Sadly, most of the time they are empty. Yes Mr. Mayor, I pass by them everyday, one below the flyover near TESDA and the one in Colon marked as Brgy Carbon. If we ever run into trouble, we fend for ourselves. No police in sight.
And what about the city’s crime rate? While not necessarily the worst, downtown Cebu and the city’s jeepney rides are notorious for pickpockets and snatchers. And as the holiday season approaches, we can also expect more street beggars and homeless children plying the streets with their “carols”.
(To be continued…)