Road clearing is not enough

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - November 26, 2020 - 12:00am

Secretary Eduardo Año, of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, has issued a directive for the resumption of the clearing of roads and sidewalks of all impediments such as unauthorized stalls and make shift stands. Even if it carries some social costs like the displacement of affected marginalized sector, this directive is legal. In fact, this order is long overdue. Roads are part of public domain and so these are beyond the commerce of man. In our ordinary man’s language, the occupancy of streets by vendors is illegal and therefore demolishing their illegal structures carries the authority of the law. Indeed, dura lex sed lex.

This directive was implemented before the outbreak of COVID-19. The maelstrom that it generated understandably shook the social order and challenged the citadels of government. On their part, affected vendors who were tolerated in their brazen display of legal indifference by previous governors naturally felt oppressed and they did not hide their grievances in garrulous ways available to them. On the other hand, government officials tasked with implementing the lawful but seemingly harsh order had to find ways to shore the levels of their populist acceptability. What a balancing sort of interest! Yet, when the dust began to settle, we saw the initial success of the government’s demolition effort as fair, just and reasonable. Then, the coronavirus struck and stopped all such works designed to clear our roads and sidewalks.

 Judging from the kind of political will shown by government officials in the earlier implementation of the DILG directive, we can expect no less resoluteness. Yes, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella and barangay officials, will hopefully be firm in following the legal order and be reasonable in the process. They will find ways to address the needs of affected citizens but they will continue to join hands with the private sector to remove all obstacles and hindrances from our streets and sidewalks. Soon, these roads and walk ways will be fully returned to pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

 Still, I look beyond the clearing of our city streets with a degree of angst. I foresee that when stalls are removed, the roads will be seen full of rots. Avoiding these pot holes only adds to traffic jams and so the objective of the clearing job will just be thwarted. Perhaps, accidents can occur out of such driving discomfort. The sidewalks specially, will not be safe for pedestrians to walk on. Aggravated by the varied ways occupants used in developing the portions they stood on, the sidewalks will also be in different levels of disrepair. Some will be jagged, others too slippery to walk on. There will be other spots that are so unevenly depressed that after a person takes a few steps he will look like climbing the next hill.

 I am sure that our officials anticipate this emerging unsafe condition of streets and sidewalks when they will be cleared of structures. In writing this kind of alert warning, i hope that our leaders prepare enough to complete this worthy project. Clearing is not enough. Making the cleared areas safe for the public is important. After all, that is the main goal. I write about it here because i am afraid that this emerging matter, in all its triviality, might just be overlooked.

EDUARDO AñO
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