Mantika ng Kahapon: An investigative report on the streetfood vendors of Burnham Park
by Joana Danielle Sanidad, Micah Jemima Quirimit, Kezia Marris Guerrero
For Andrea (not her real name), a university student here in Baguio City, going to Burnham Park every afternoon is not a hobby but, a routine already. At 5:30pm, her favorite carts are already out on the streets selling her favorite past-time food—street foods.
Upon arriving, the vendor—Kuya Ryan (his real name)—would greet her with a smile. Andrea had been his customer since her freshman year. She would then pick up whatever she feels like eating for that afternoon.
“Kulang pa nga sakin ‘to e, (Actually, this isn’t enough for me)” says Andrea, holding out a bowl full of fishball, kwek-kwek, and squidballs. “Mga tatlong round pa ng ganito, hehe, (About three more rounds of this)” she adds.
Andrea is just one of the many students, people, who find street foods delicious and won’t also mind if these are clean or not. These street food carts are located almost everywhere. At first glance, you wouldn’t really think that something wrong is going on in these carts, until you look closely enough to notice.
Closer look on this business
Street food vendors in Burnham Park, Baguio City do not have business permits and sanitary permits but are still allowed to be in operation and are not restrained by the local government, thus, giving them the chance to market their goods to the people around the city. There are certain laws implemented by the government which are made to ensure the safety of the public when it comes to the food that they are consuming.
According to Presidential Decree No. 856, Code on Sanitation, the health of the public is prioritized subject to protection and promotion. First section of the decree states matters regarding sanitary permits which business establishments, specifically food vendors and handlers are required to acquire.
Sanitary permits are necessary in ensuring the public that the food establishments, or any place where food and beverages are served, manufactured, processed, stored or sold, that they are patronizing are clean. Also, these sanitary permits must be posted in a noticeable or visible area in that certain food establishment. These are some of the laws under Section 14 (Sanitary Permits) of Presidential Decree No. 856.
Almost all of the street food vendors that are around Baguio do not have the necessary permits for operation. One would not find a sanitary permit posted on any of these street food vendors’ food carts.
There are two officers who are in charge of screening applicants for business and sanitary permits and of releasing those permits from Baguio City Hall. The first one is Cristio A. Lagyop, Permits & Licensing Officer of Baguio City Hall. Regarding the securing of permits of street food vendors, he said that there are no special permits issued to them and that; first, they must get an endorsement from Burnham Park since it is where they are located.
Another officer from Baguio City Hall, Mr. de Guzman, the Division of Health Head, was asked about the street food vendors and how their permits are released and processed. He said that permits are not released for the street food vendors because they have no permanent structures which are a requirement when you are asking for a sanitary permit. Vendors who have permanent structures or those who have distributors can apply for the necessary permits that they need in order to have their businesses legalized. He mentioned that these vendors should go to different agencies and establishments to be able to have all the requirements they need to apply for business permits.
For every law abided for the food handlers in the decree stated, there are also laws provided for the law enforcers in disciplining the food handlers/vendors. They shall be the ones to inspect and prevent the marketing of food which are already not consumable and edible for the consumers. They are also responsible for checking the unsanitary environment and tools used by the vendors. And most of all, they are responsible for enforcing the laws stated in the Presidential Decree No. 856, Code on Sanitation, these are according to Sec. 33 (Responsibility of the Local Health Authority).
Until now, these vendors are still out on the streets selling street foods to the people. They have been there for a couple of years and they have been operating even without the necessary permits that the law is requiring. Consumers’ health are put to danger because food inspections are not conducted and the environment these street food vendors are situated is not checked.
Time-Consuming or Money-Wasting
These street food vendors are not allowed to station themselves out on the public until 5:30pm. Reasons for this weren’t stated but, if they go around about before the given time they are arrested by the police. This was an agreement made between the vendors and the police.
Why do they settle with this kind of business when they can get permits and have their stations permanently positioned? According to Section 14 of Presidential Decree No. 856, there are fees that permit applicants are supposed to pay when having issuance, renewal and noting of certificates. The amount of the fee depends upon the capital that the business used for the operation. Ideally, one food cart gains P1000.00 a day from street foods which cost P5.00 – P25.00 per stick. The operators would still subtract the money they would use for gas and lard from that P1000.00. P200.00 would go to the person who was in charge of that cart that day. This could be one of the reasons why they would rather settle with having no permits and have a certain time when they can start selling street foods than get permits, pay taxes and get lesser profit.
Street food vendors are referred to as the people who sell fishballs, squidballs, kwek-kwek, and one day olds who are located in most places where people would most likely go. These vendors use cooking oil repeatedly which is dangerous to the consumers’ health. University of the Philippines Baguio Clinic Physician Leila Jara said that anything that is heated up can produce chemical reactions. When cooking oil is repeatedly heated up for cooking street foods, chemical reactions take place which produce toxic chemicals which can be harmful to the health. In addition to Jara’s statement, a licensed doctor based in Japan, Dr. Akihito Kaga, MD., said that it is not healthy for people to consume foods cooked with overused cooking oil. Unhealthy fats and salts could be obtained from overused cooking oil. These unhealthy fats can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and obesity while the unhealthy salts can cause kidney stones and bladder stones.
Photo 1. Street food: fish balls, chicken balls, kikiam, one day old
De Guzman was also asked about his opinion on the sanitation of the foods being sold by the street food vendors. He said that the public is not sure on how they store and prepare these types of food, they might get typhoid fever, or the ingestion of food which is contaminated or which have salmonella virus. If the people really want to eat these types of food, he said that they should be the ones preparing and cooking these in their respective homes to ensure their safety and sanitation.
When asked about his opinion on overused cooking oil, he said that the cooking oil should only be repeated twice. He mentioned that when cooking oil is more than twice, the oil should now be used for other purposes like fuel for vehicles, and for advertising techniques.
To guarantee that the food handlers are free from any kind of disease that may harm their customers, health certificates are issued to them. Examinations are conducted to test whether these food handlers who are applying for sanitary permits are free from infectious diseases. These are according to Section 15 of the same Presidential Decree (Health Certificates).
Health certificates are only issued to the vendors or food chain/establishment employees who are complete in the sanitation requirements that are necessary. Street food vendors do not have this certificate mentioned because they are vendors with no permanent structure (ambulant vendors) and they do not have plans on making this as a permanent business.
Ambulant Vendors & Food Handling
These street food vendors use kitchen utensils to be able to cook the foods that they are selling while they are on the streets. The foods they are selling are raw ones. Some may be cooked but some customers ask them to reheat the food that they are buying. Ambulant food vendors are prohibited to sell food that requires the use of utensils according to Section 32 (Special Provisions), e. (Ambulant Food Vendors) of Presidential Decree No. 856. Also, the only kinds of food that they are allowed to sell are bottled food drinks, biscuits and confectioneries.
Clean working garments must be worn by food handlers, like prescribed caps and hairnets, especially female food handlers. Some of these street food vendors do not wear the working garments recommended by the law while they are out on the streets cooking their customers’ foods. They are also unable to wash their hands before they cook and one could see that their hands are really dirty.
According to Section 19 (Food Handlers) of Presidential Decree No. 856, health certificates are required for every food handlers before they get employed. Food handlers are also required to wear clean working garments, specifically caps or hairnets, especially for female employees, in addition to that they are required to observe their personal hygiene, and lastly, wash their hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly.
Ryan Ramos is a street vendor for 2 years now. He was under a supplier/handler for one year and has been handling his own for one year now. Ramos’ handler is named Danny Panimbatan. When asked whether his supplier had the necessary permits, he said that there was none. Ramos also said that when he was able to have his own cart of street foods, he wanted to apply for permits but the Baguio City Hall did not let him get his own.
Ramos, when asked about the cooking oil that he has been using, he mentioned that he does not exactly overuse it. What he does is that he adds new oil to what he has recently used. He buys 2 kilograms of lard then mixes it to the oil left from the last time he fried street foods.
The reason behind this could be the amount of money that he could save if he chooses to reuse the cooking oil. In here, the safety of the consumers is sacrificed just so these vendors could gain more profit.
Photo 2. Fish balls being soaked and cooked in overused cooking oil
Kwek-kwek, squidballs, fishballs and other street foods taste really good and they can fill one’s stomach at a very low price. These street foods can give people satisfaction but, as consumers, you should know the risks of eating such foods. These can sustain people’s energies for quite a while and they could save a lot from buying these foods instead of other foods but these could also cost people a lot of money once these people get sick due to the dangers of such kind of foods.
As for the vendors’ practice of overusing cooking oil, consumers’ health are put to risk without them directly knowing it. It might be because of the profit that they might lose or gain if they follow the correct ways and process of having a legal business. For a day, they will only get a small part of the money that they have earned for a day, still considering all the bills that they have to pay.