MANILA (UPDATE) - After cleaning up parts of the capital, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno now plans to expand Arroceros Park, the capital’s last forested area, and transform Manila into a green city.
The previous city administration sought to cut off trees from a portion of the 2.2-hectare Arroceros Forest Park to build a gym that could be used by several Manila universities.
"I will withdraw a portion of Arroceros Street for public use, then we will extend Arroceros Park,” Moreno told environmentalists who have been lobbying for the park’s preservation.
“We are going to create an esplanade at the back of Arroceros,” he said.
Moreno said he plans to close streets at the corner of the Quezon footbridge to have more space "that can be converted into green space” and to address the traffic problem near Lawton.
Gates that enclose the Arroceros Park would be demolished, Moreno said. "I’ve always believed in an open park. Ang park hindi naka-preso," he said.
“I hope before the end of the year, 50 to 60 percent of the entire plan will be in place.”
The riverside park, home to some 3,000 species of birds and trees was developed in 1993, but was closed to the public after portions of the area was occupied by informal settlers and gangsters.
“It’s unfair for the people of Manila and others who want to visit the park na dahil lang sa kapabayaan ng gobyerno ay ipagkakait natin 'yung comfortable access sa taumbayan,” Moreno told reporters.
“The solution is not to gate it but to out security and enough people to maintain and sustain the purpose of the park,” he said.
The mayor said he has rejected proposals for the construction of the gym, but did not agree to the demolition of the Department of Education office in the Arroceros compound.
"Don’t ask for things you do not know how to solve,” Moreno told environmental groups that asked about the demolition of the DepEd office.
“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.
“You have to be careful in what you ask... I don’t like animosity,” he said.
Winner Foundation, the group that has been caring for the Arroceros Park for decades, said that they are now on more solid footing in preserving Manila’s last lung.
The Foundation earlier faced several cases in connection with the ownership and maintenance of the urban forest.
“We’re really happy with the new mayor and his vision,” Chiqui Mabanta, Winner Foundation president, told ABS-CBN News.
“We’re thankful that it (Arroceros Park) is safe for now, hopefully forever,” she said.
OTHER GREEN PROJECTS
The Lawton area, an old and musty transportation terminal, would be converted into a green civic center so that Manileños would have more open spaces, Moreno said.
“Susunod niyan, tatawid na kami nga Lawton and this is the underpass issue,” he said.
Manila’s 46 parks and other institutional buildings owned by the city government are expected to follow suit in the greening project, he said, without giving details.
Pavement near the Bonifacio monument by the city hall would also be removed and replaced with trees, the mayor said.
“If your concern is clean air, you are with the right government,” Moreno said,
“Importante ito dahil maipapamana namin ito sa mga anak namin,” he said.