By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
THE Iloilo Central Market seems to be in the clutches of an “invisible government” instead of the City Hall.
This was the observation of City Councilor Eduardo Peñaredondo in an interview relative to the proposed P866-million upgrade of the Iloilo Central Market.
“We already had a sad lesson in the past during the time of Mayor Mabilog nga wala madayon ang renovation sang Central Market because of these forces that opposed the project,” said Peñaredondo.
Peñaredondo directly pointed to Rex Donasco, President of Association of Stall Owners and Transient Vendors (ASTRAVEN) at Central Market, as the main force behind the purported “invisible government.”
Peñaredondo said he oppose any rehabilitation and redevelopment plan of the current administration without the endorsement of Donasco.
“He has proven his worth. I will not entertain any proposal in the Central Market if we don’t get any endorsement from his Excellency Donasco,” he emphasized.
In 2015, the city government during the time of former Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog laid out plans to enter into partnership with private firms to rehabilitate and manage the public market under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme.
In the same year, the Iloilo Central Market was included in a joint venture revitalization project with the SM group.
Under the project, the existing public market will be demolished and converted into a four-storey mix use complex.
But some stakeholders saw the plan as a form of “privatization,” sparking rallies and confrontations
between pro- and anti-PPP groups.
Some market vendors even signed petitions opposing the project because they fear that they will lose their stalls.
The opposition prompted Mabilog to withdraw the plan.
“It miserably failed because of the invisible government in the Central Market headed by Donasco. The private firm could have financed the project, saving the City Hall precious resources but it did not happen because of the uncooperative and antagonistic leadership at the Central Market,” said Peñaredondo.
Now, the city government is eyeing another state-of-the-art upgrade of the Iloilo Central Market that would cost P866 million.
Mayor Jose Espinosa III emphasized that the private sector is excluded from the project as it will be solely funded by the government.
“The project will be done phase by phase and wala sang private sector. It will be an all government-financed project,” he said.
The new project includes policies on no privatization, no displacement of existing stall holders including identified transients, no increase in market fees, and no new big players.
But Donasco is still opposing the project, citing that it will lead to privatization.
“Mas maayo pa ang sa SM. Subong, indi kami favor kay nakita namon it will lead to our privatization,” Donasco said.
Donasco said all that City Hall must do is repair the drainage system and roofing of markets instead of embarking on expensive and ambitious redevelopment plans.
The redevelopment plan entailed a phase-by-phase restoration of the heritage building, establishment of access roads, a 6-level car park, renovation of the main market, establishment of multi-use building, construction of Handumanan and Park area.
Once the plan is approved by the City Council, Espinosa said they would start implementing the project between January and February 2019.