Christmas will not be so bad after all, plant vendors who have gardens at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City, said yesterday.
They will not have to entirely vacate the park premises on Saturday as earlier ordered. Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson has allowed them to stay until December 30, the vendors said.
“I thank the Lord for answering my prayers. I asked that guv would have pity on us and gift us this Christmas with more time to vacate our gardens, even only until December 30,” said Endring Castillo, 81, who has had a garden at the park for more than 20 years.
The December 30 deadline will give them more time to find places to transfer their gardens so they can continue to earn, Castillo said.
Leila Barroca, president of the gardeners group at the park, said they have had gardens there for about 21 years.
“We are being asked to vacate while the Panaad is undergoing renovation. We are thankful that we have been allowed to stay until December 30, we accept that,” she said.
They were told that after the Panaad rehabilitation work is done and if they are needed, they may be allowed back into the park, Jeanette Salmingo said.
“We are thankful to Atty. Diaz for giving us until December 30, we will at least have a merry Christmas,” she said.
Salmingo said that during the term of former governor Rafael Coscolluela they helped landscape the park.
Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz said the governor granted the request of garden owners to be allowed more time to vacate the park premises.
“We are happy to have reached a peaceful resolution,” Diaz said.
The vendors have agreed to remove their dwelling places and other structures within their gardens by Saturday, and to clear the premises of their plants by December 30, Diaz said.
The provincial government will provide them with trucks to transfer their structures and plants, he said.
Meanwhile, the vendors will only be allowed to stay and sell their remaining plants at their Panaad gardens from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for security purposes until December 30, Diaz said. They cannot live at the park, he said.
Diaz said park security services personnel had reported that there are 15 vendors with gardens at the park, but it turned out there are 34.
The governor is open to the idea that after all the infrastructure work and clean up at the Panaad Park and Stadium is done, they can design green areas where the 34 vendors could return to, Diaz said.
However, they will have to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the provincial government to be approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, he said. They may be required to pay rent or some other agreement could be reached, Diaz said.
Diaz said he has advised the vendors to organize and have their group accredited by the provincial government. “We can even acknowledge them and give them financial assistance or grants in the future,” he said.
The government would like to support the plant sector as long as they are organized and accredited with the province, he said.
Lacson earlier said the garden owners at the park had no Memorandum of Agreement with the province, and were not paying any rent.
The provincial government is preparing the Panaad Park and Stadium for the Western Visayas regional meet and the Palarong Pambansa, and needs to clear the illegally occupied spaces for other uses, he said.
He said the cleared areas may be used for parking spaces needed for big events, and if they are used for any commercial activity occupants have to enter into legal agreements with the Capitol.
The garden owners at the park, many of whom have formed close bonds over the past 21 year, said they will each have to look for places to set up their gardens to continue earning a living while the Panaad renovation is underway.
Doris Contiga said she will continue selling plants at her house at Hillside Subdivision in Barangay Mansilingan, Nelsa Montaño will return to Barangay Handumanan and Morit Salazar to Barangay Cabug in Bacolod City.
Meanwhile, Diaz said that to address the about P600,000 monthly electric bill at the Panaad, sub electric meters are being installed in the pavilions of the 32 towns and cities of Negros Occidental, including Bacolod, to determine how much electricity each of them are consuming.
They still have to determine if the LGUs will be charged for the power consumption at their pavilions, he added.*
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