By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

The ubiquitous street vendors’ role in economy, governance, politics

February 28, 2024, 5:35 pm

“The best test of a nation’s righteousness is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable in its midst.” – Jim Wallis

Lately, the sari-sari store has been gaining a lot of notice. A recent report by analytics startup Packworks revealed that sales of sari-sari stores in the country posted a total of about PHP8 billion in sales last year. This whopping increase of about 21 percent in sales has prompted several people to notice the importance of the said stores to our economy. For the past few years, government agencies and private organizations have started several initiatives involving the said sari-sari stores. There are several capital assistance and entrepreneurship capacity-building programs that have been organized for sari-sari stores. This surge of support for the neighborhood small stores is a welcome development as they play an important role in communities all across the country.

There is, however, one more informal economic sector of society that needs the same amount or even more attention – the street vendors. The ubiquitous Philippine street vendors come in all shapes and sizes. You can see these instant stores using small boxes, tables, rolling carts, modular wooden structures, tents, and any other structure that is easy to build and dismantle. They are a staple in any urban area with a high degree of foot traffic. They are the primary source of income for many Filipinos without the skill, education, or resources to find alternative means of earning a living. Unfortunately, the business and regulatory environment covering street vendors in our communities is often harmful to the said street vendors.

In local government development plans, the needs of street vendors are disregarded or seen as a hindrance. When urban development hits areas where street vendors are located, they are often evicted with little or no social protection or alternatives. Admittedly, the unregulated proliferation of street vendors can have negative effects in terms of traffic, public order, and public health. These negative effects, however, can be mitigated or lessened with a concerted effort by both public and private organizations in properly organizing and monitoring these street vendors.

It must be emphasized that street vendors play an important role in the informal economic environment. Street vendors can create additional jobs not only for themselves but for porters, transport operators, storage providers, and other related services. The government can also obtain income from licenses, permits, fees, and fines. Ideally, street vendors can also account for about 25 percent of the gross domestic product of our country. Like sari-sari stores, they can provide needed goods and services to those who must buy life’s necessities in very small quantities at affordable prices.

An empowered and capacitated street vendor sector can contribute to governance by acting as listening posts and communication platforms for local governments and their projects. They can even be force multipliers for traffic enforcement and delivery of basic services. In politics, street vendors can serve as leaders and message delivery platforms for a candidate as they are able to develop networks in any community.

There is no question that street vendors can have a large contribution to many things in a community. As such, they, too, deserve much support from all sectors of society.

This is my oblique observation.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.