By Alex P. Vidal
The first-ever protest rally in front of the municipal hall of Miag-ao, Iloilo on March 9 ended three hours after ambulant fish vendors, aided by General Assembly Binding Women for Reform Integrity Equality Leadership and Action (Gabriela)-Panay, agreed to the suggestion of Mayor Macario Napulan during a dialogue that they “police your own group” and to form an organization.
The rally started at past one o’clock in the afternoon spearheaded by Lucy Francisco, Gabriela regional coordinator.
“We came from Antique province and we are here to help the ambulant vendors (in Miag-ao) because we are celebrating the International Women’s Month and we don’t want their rights to be violated,” Francisco said.
Some15 minutes after the rally started, Senior Inspector Cyril Octavio, Miag-ao police chief, approached Francisco and Ma. Leonora Egarde, leader of ambulant fish vendors, and invited them to the municipal hall.
Municipal administrator Joselito Eiman, municipal legal officer Ramil Naciongayo and Councilor Ma. Teresa Jambre faced them in a dialogue in the conference hall.
Egarde protested the arrest of their three members and the seizure of their fishes saying the municipal government violated the verbal agreement they entered with Napulan allowing them to sell inside the public market from 5:30 in the afternoon up.
Egarde said Napulan issued them a business permit after paying a fee of P495 on January 20, 2015.
The permit, issued in the name of Rosine Montalvo and approved by licensing unit chief Stephen Intal, is good until December 31, 2015.
“If we will be arrested and our fishes are confiscated, we will lose our livelihood and we will go hungry,” Egarde sobbed.
But the municipal officials chided Egarde’s group for its failure to honor a previous agreement to sell only in designated areas.
Some of Egarde’s fellow ambulant vendors sell their fishes outside the public market and even before five o’clock in the afternoon in violation of the municipal ordinance, Naciongayo disclosed.
Jambre said she herself caught several ambulant vendors selling beyond what was contained in the agreement.
Napulan, who came late in the two-hour dialogue, rapped the ambulant fish vendors for “abusing the privileges” he extended them.
“They abused our agreement. I myself saw some of them selling in the gates of the public market as early as six o’clock in the morning,” the mayor said.
Napulan said he also discovered that some ambulant vendors allowed themselves to be used in a hocus pocus committed by some registered or authorized vendors inside the public market.
“Some ambulant vendors are relatives of registered vendors. Sometimes three vendors are using one permit,” Napulan said.
To resolve the problem, Napulan urged ambulant fish vendors to form an organization and “police your own group” by doing the following:
-get a certification from the barangay showing that they are bonafide residents of Miag-ao; and
-produce identification cards that they are indigent.
Napulan said through a regulation they can protect and prioritize Miag-ao-based ambulant vendors since there are transient ambulant vendors from other municipalities who come in from time to time.
He also encouraged them to sell fishes taken from the shores of Miag-ao.
“Our own fishermen are at the mercy of wholesale buyers who sell the fishes taken from the Miag-ao shores to the Iloilo fishing port (in Iloilo City). The ones that are brought back here are sold to us in a higher price,” Napulan stressed.
“We are developing the Baybay Norte and Baybay South and we will give priority to those who catch the fishes here in shores of Miaga-ao and sell them direct to the local residents.”
Jambre suggested that ambulant vendors should indicate if the fishes they are selling are catch locally so they can be given priority.
Eiman said there is a need to regulate the ambulant fish vendors “because we are looking for the revenues.”
Out of 60 registered vendors inside the public market, only 10 were able to renew their business permits this year, Eiman said.