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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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Closure of Bais market halts
as violence erupts

The closure order on the Mercado de Bais in Bais City, Negros Oriental, has been put on hold after violence erupted recently when authorities, led by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), attempted to implement it.

To avoid the violence from further escalating at almost noontime Thursday, authorities decided to hold in abeyance the implementation of the closure order, upon request of Mayor Mercy Goñi, Joseph Lloyd Elmaco, city legal officer of Bais City, said.

Elmaco, in an interview yesterday, reiterated that contrary to the misconception by some quarters that it was the Bais City local government unit that had ordered the closure, it was, in fact, the BFP Regional Director in Region 7, Samuel Tadeo, who issued a closure order to the facility.

The Bais LGU owns the Mercado de Bais, which had previously leased out stalls and spaces to concessionaires until last year when the LGU announced it had entered into a memorandum of agreement with a mall chain.

Subsequently, the concessionaires, particularly the stall owners and vendors, were asked to move to the city's old market, but the move was met with some opposition.

Elmacosaid the BFP had ordered the stoppage or closure of the Mercado de Bais following an inspection that revealed the failure of some concessionaires to comply with the Fire Safety Code.

Elmacosaid that in previous months, the local fire department conducted a series of inspections and found out that the Mercado de Bais was already a fire hazard and thus, the issuance of the closure order.

Because the closure order was directed against the Bais City LGU, Elmaco said they sent the City Engineer's Office to go there with the provincial office of the BFP, headed by the provincial fire marshal, together with other law enforcement agencies and units at around 9 a.m. Thursday.

Upon arrival at the Mercado de Bais, the implementing team, composed of personnel of the provincial BFP, the Bais Fire Station, the Negros Oriental Philippine National Police (PNP)-Civil Disturbance Management, and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, was met with resistance by opposition quarters who started throwing rocks, empty bottles and other projectiles at them, Elmacosaid.

Some of the team members sustained minor injuries although they exercised maximum tolerance, he added.

It also said that they learned that many of those who were on the opposition side were not even vendors affected by the closure order but were believed to have been “brought in” by certain quarters taking the side of the protesters.

Elmaco was referring to a handful of vendors at the Mercado de Bais who had been locked in a controversy with the Bais City LGU after the latter decided to enter into a lease agreement with Metro Gaisano for a 25-year contract at PHP 1.1 million per month rental.

About 85 percent of the stall owners/vendors at the Mercado de Bais have since relocated to the old market, which Mayor Mercy Goñi had promised to renovate.

The closure order was for the business establishments there that have not complied with the fire safety requirements, Elmaco said.

Because of the stalled implementation of the closure order on Thursday, the BFP, PNP, and the CIDG are planning to file charges against those responsible for the “assault” on authorities at the Mercado de Bais, Elmaco said.

These persons have already been identified, and some were said to be carrying weapons with them, he added.

But Elmaco says it is only a matter of time before the closure order will be implemented, unless revoked by the BFP in Region 7.

Meanwhile, Elmaco also said the BFP is assigning a new fire marshal in Bais City although he did not identify him.*PNA



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