Bayani Fernando knows exactly how to stop thousands of vendors blocking Manila's streets and footpaths with their makeshift stalls. Spray their wares with kerosene. He has yet to make good on his threat, but few doubt his seriousness. In Tagalog, Mr Fernando's first name means hero, but his foes call him Hitler because of his iron-fisted style. Since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority in June, Mr Fernando has fought hard to straighten out the city. He has warned that cars parked illegally will be seized. He has also vowed to destroy any structures encroaching on the pavements or streets. 'If the demolition will be costly then we'll bill the person,' he said. Mr Fernando's current battle, to rid the streets of vendors, has, however, provoked an outcry over his 'inhumane' methods. The 56-year old, who looks baby-faced until one sees his steely eyes, is unruffled. He has only one reply to protesting vendors. 'Leave the streets. I'm serious.' Born in a market to a vendor, Mr Fernando graduated in mechanical engineering. He told a group of vendors protesting against his policies that despite his roots, they could not expect any leniency from him. He has repeatedly said in public that giving in to protests would encourage more and lead to lawlessness. Mr Fernando's job, however, is a taxing one. With nearly 10 million people crammed in an area of 636 sq km, Metro Manila is one of Asia's most troubled cities. The metropolis is congested, polluted and decaying, rubbish collection is erratic, huge traffic jams are standard and flash floods are often fatal. The biggest problem, however, is political. Metro Manila is not one city, but 12, plus five municipalities. As a result there are 17 mayors - all jealous of their districts. The only bright spot is a city called Marikina, and it is all thanks to Mr Fernando. Elected Marikina's mayor in 1992, he turned things around. Under Mr Fernando, residents who walked the city streets without wearing shirts were arrested. Public drinking sessions and basketball games on the streets were banned. Visitors wearing shorts and sandals were prohibited from entering City Hall. To decongest the streets, Mayor Fernando said: 'We passed a draconian measure declaring all goods on sidewalks as common garbage which should be collected and disposed of as such.' The seized goods were destroyed to avoid any suspicions of corruption. He also succeeded in doing what no other mayor in Metro Manila had done before - he relocated squatters to a new housing area. Evictions in Manila often turn ugly, but Mr Fernando would arrive wearing a trademark yellow hard hat, brandishing a cane and accompanied by ambulances and stretchers 'to show them we were prepared for consequences'. Not even law enforcers were spared. He forced erring policemen to do squats in public. His methods turned Marikina into a model city - one that even boasted a park alongside a cleaned-up river. Residents voted him in three times - the maximum limit - and then elected his wife. One Marikina resident summed up the experience. 'The mayor has done wonders that has really improved the city but his manner in dealing with people is not so nice.' When President Arroyo appointed Mr Fernando to the development association, she told him to do to Metro Manila what he had done to Marikina. Already he has improved traffic flow along the city's main artery, Edsa, by simply banning any left turns. But Mr Fernando's biggest hurdle will be getting all 17 mayors to co-operate. Not everyone agrees with his heavy-handed ways, and Metro Manila has in the past suffered greatly under centralised management. Its first governor was Imelda Marcos, who turned mayors into flunkies to carve out a power base for herself. Already Mr Fernando has ruffled feathers by showing that he does not fit the typical Metro Manila mayor's profile. When one city father said that the way to deal with street vendors was to simply tax them, Mr Fernando's retort was in character. He said: 'It might be win-win for us and the vendors, but it will be the public that will lose.'