In a previous column story on the need to clear the streets of illegal obstructions, we reminded readers that people must also reclaim sidewalks for their safety.
Mhiles dela Cruz said, “I use Zobel Roxas Street every day and I’m annoyed because I have to pass between moving and parked vehicles. There’s no sidewalk… talk about safety. And how about those kids coming from schools nearby? Their lives are also at risk. I hope the President’s administration will do something about it.”
Eli Canta, a former officemate, complains that some companies appear to have claimed portions of sidewalks, like those at RCBC Plaza in Makati and Manila Pavilion on United Nations Avenue, as part of their property.
Actually, as I have written before, even house owners have claimed sidewalks as part of their property. They build walls and fences, even garages, on the sidewalk, extending the sizes of their lots and depriving other people the use of a public property.
I bet private property owners do not pay taxes on portions of the sidewalk that they had “grabbed.”
Canta says a “worse case of abuse of sidewalk is in Bacoor, Cavite. The sidewalks leading to and in front of the Zapote public market are occupied by vendors, stall-holders, parked tricycles, cars and other vehicles.”
Pedestrians use the street, he adds, and there is only one lane for vehicles, slowing traffic significantly. “Some vehicles avoid the area and take a longer route, wasting time and gasoline.”
Travel time for commuters takes longer by 30 minutes at least.
I can imagine the problem because I see it on San Andres Street in Manila. The colorful fruit market—a popular tourist destination that had been featured in postcards—is but a shadow of its old self.
The “rehabilitation” of the market not only has robbed the market of its personality but driven vendors to occupy the sidewalk near it.
I hear the same problem exists in all other “rehabilitated” public markets in Manila.
In many parts of the metropolis, barangay halls and police detachment offices are also set up on sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to use the streets instead. The police detachment on the corner of Mabini and Pedro Gil occupies almost a whole block, so pedestrians have to weave through vehicles.
Annieleen of Pandacan says frequent traffic buildup on the corner of Laura and Menandro Streets is “…due to illegal parking of taxis.” A taxi operator, she points out, “has claimed one full lane” for cabs in need of repair and maintenance. “It is supposed to be a two-lane street but [he is] occupying… one lane for his taxis.”
This has contributed, Annieleen notes, to major traffic jams on Laura and Inviernes Streets when going to Pedro Gil and Osmeña.
“The taxi operator is rude when you try to park even for a short time, telling you the space is theirs,” she says. The taxi company will even cause damage to somebody else’s parked car, having claimed the street as theirs, she adds.
“When did it become legal for public roads to be owned by private individuals?” Annieleen asks.
I have also been asking the same question since a number of barangays started closing off public streets for several hours a night, depriving motorists access to thoroughfares they helped build through their taxes.
Supposedly, it is to make residents at those streets feel safe and secure. If that is the reason, they should pay for whatever equipment and systems will make them feel safe. After all, public streets are paid for not just by residents of those roads but every tax-paying Filipino.
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