Remapping the edge: Informality and legality in the Harrison Road Night Market, Baguio City, Philippines

Milgram, B. L.

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Milgram, B. L. (2014). Remapping the edge: Informality and legality in the Harrison Road Night Market, Baguio City, Philippines. City & Society, 26(2), 153–174.

Informality , Legal/illegal practice , Philippines , Resistance , Street Vending

Since the 1970s, in the Philippines, increasing rural to urban migration and a lack of income-generating employment have led to new forms of livelihood characterized by complex intersections of formal/informal and legal/illegal work and public space use. This paper uses Baguio City’s new Harrison Road Night Market to argue that both street vendors and city officials are complicit in reconfiguring informality and legality as urban organizing logics—unmapping and remapping urban public space and livelihoods to their mutual advantages—increased rental income for the city and viable jobs for vendors. To this end, street vendors use everyday and insurgent public space activism to secure their right to street-based work. Simultaneously, the municipal government, variably tolerates, regularizes, or penalizes street trade as it gauges its potential to enrich city coffers. Such political-economic manoeuvering by both parties, moreover, also reveals insights about the intersection of different forms of power—that between vendors and the city, between vendor associations, and among vendors themselves. By successfully securing government permission to establish a “legal” used clothing night street market on Harrison Road, a main city artery, Baguio City’s previously marginalized street vendors visibly assert their legitimacy and rights to livelihood in arenas of power from which they have been largely excluded.

Main finding
The author finds that through self-governance and organization, vendor associations formed and lobbied for their right to sell second hand clothes in public space. Vendors later leveraged their power by petitioning for a more adequate and centrally located market space arguing to government officials that they were a significant voting bloc. As a result of this demand, vendors could sell, on an experimental basis, however, a new Administrative Order banned non-city residents. The new market didn’t accommodate the vendors' needs yet the city collected rent fees for more stalls than were available. Vendors took part in extralegal tactics and insurgent public space activism by: visiting counselor's offices, letter writing, and petitioning to decrease the number of stalls and increase their individual size. In sum, the vendors were able to leverage their importance as fulfillers of consumer needs and providers of revenue for the city.

Description of method used in the article
The author conducted 62 formal and conversational interviews with street vendors (mostly women age 30-65) and select government officials plus participant observation of City Hall, Baguio City Market Authority, and Committee on Market, Trade, and Commerce meetings.

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Organising categories

Economic Transactions
Field Observations
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