Environment advocates are backing Manila’s plans for Arroceros Forest Park

July 31, 2019 - 2:29 PM
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Arroceros Forest Park expansion
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno met with environmentalists to discuss his plans on a greener space for Manila residents. (Manila Public Information Office/Released)

The leader of the environmental group who has been appealing to save Arroceros Forest Park, so-called Manila’s last lung, welcomed Mayor Isko Moreno’s plans on expanding it.

Chiqui Sy-Quia Mabanta, head of the park’s guardian Winner Foundation, shared a photo of the recent meeting with Moreno and captioned it: “Amazing plans for Manila.”

These environmental groups, which are part of the Save Arroceros Movement, had lobbied to stop the previous administration’s plans from converting the park into a school gymnasium over the years.

Our hands = gratitude. Amazing plans for Manila. #MayorIskoBagongMaynila

Posted by Chiqui Sy-Quia Mabanta on Tuesday, July 30, 2019

 

On July 30, Moreno told them that he will keep the park and even expand its terrain as part of his ambitious project to transform Manila into a green city.

Mabanta expressed her appreciation that preserving the urban forest was part of Moreno’s vision for the city.

“We’re really happy with the new mayor and his vision. We’re thankful that it (Arroceros Park) is safe for now, hopefully forever,” she said in an interview.

The Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society also backed Moreno’s goals for Manila which include the environment.

PNPCSI is an active member of the Save Arroceros Movement (SAM). We had a meeting with Mayor Isko Moreno yesterday, and…

Posted by Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc. on Tuesday, July 30, 2019

 

The 2.2-hectare natural district is home to over 3,000 trees of 61 species and 8,000 plants.

However, the government had to close it to the public as informal settlers occupied part of it.

The green city project

Although Moreno did not mention a deadline or timeline, he hoped to see some of his plans executed this year.

“I hope before the end of the year, 50 to 60% of the entire plan will be in place,” Moreno said.

Among the plans he bared in the meeting include:

  1. Withdraw a portion of Arroceros Street at the corner of the Metropolitan Theater and the footbridge of Quezon Bridge and convert these into green space for public use.
  2. Extend Arroceros Park.
  3. Create an esplanade at the back of Arroceros.
  4. Demolish the park’s gates to make it available for public use again.
  5. Build a 1,600-hectare of green space in the district as recommended by the environment agency.
  6. Make the rest of Manila’s 46 parks and other institutional buildings owned by the city government part of the greening project.
  7. Plant trees in place of pavement in the area near the Andres Bonifacio Monument.

Moreno said he will not demolish the Department of Education office in the compound.

“Don’t ask for things you do not know how to solve. If you have a property where they can transfer then I can build a new building and relocate them there. In the meantime, we have to live in harmony in the area,” he said.

Dilapidation over the years

The park, located along Antonio Villegas Street, was a piece of land bought by former Mayor Alfredo Lim in 1992 to provide Manila residents a breathing space against the urban jungle.

This natural reserve, however, lost 70% of its once lush trees over the years.

The now-dilapidated Park and Ride Building and City Department of Education building were also built there during then Mayor Lito Atienza’s time in 2007.

In 2017, environmentalists partly won the battle against the proposal to built a school gym under former Mayor Joseph Estrada. Estrada decided to defer the construction.