Advocates want new plan to rehabilitate Arroceros Forest Park
MANILA – The Save Arroceros Movement is asking the city government of Manila to halt the planned redevelopment of the Arroceros Forest Park and come up instead with a new plan to rehabilitate “Manila’s last lung.”
Over the weekend, members of the group visited the park to check on its development and were shocked to see portions of the park paved with concrete.
They also claimed that some trees were removed without the permission of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
“It is no longer a forest. It is now just a park. A forest-themed park maybe. They removed several trees (without a permit from DENR ) and they are adding lots of ornamental/ exotic plants (!). Definitely not a forest anymore,” Winner Foundation president Chiqui Sy Quia-Mabanta said in a Facebook post.
The Winner Foundation has been the Arroceros Forest Park’s caretaker since 1993.
“We didn’t realize it would happen like so quickly, and we didn’t realize it would take that much,” Mabanta told ANC’s “Rundown” on Thursday.
“We were just so disappointed and shocked to see the park was built with concrete pathways and stairs, and the whole paved area, you know, which used to be natural ground,” she added.
Mabanta acknowledged that they were informed that some trees would be affected by the forest park’s redevelopment plan.
“They actually informed us that some trees would get affected because they were going to build a couple of buildings in front to create an office,” she said.
But they thought the paved walkways would be placed at the park’s extension, which Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso was planning to put near the Metropolitan Theater.
“We thought the development would go to his extension. Kasi he’s extending the park outward towards Metropolitan Theater. So we thought most of the development [would be] there,” said Mabanta.
“And we were promised that not many trees would get harmed,” she added.
Mabanta said these changes in the park will affect the ecosystem in the area.
“You know, the birdwatchers identified over 30 birds, the scientists of UST, identified three endemic butterflies. So it was really a thriving forest with lots of plants, not just trees. So this definitely affects that.”
“We are calling on the Manila LGU to stop the Arroceros Forest planned redevelopment project and to come out with a revised plan with our inputs,” Mabanta said.
"I’m not sure if it’s still possible to remove the concrete that was laid... We’ll try to bring it back to a forest as much as we can, I guess," she added.
Menie Odulio, who used to head the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society Inc., echoed Mabanta in a separate Facebook post.
“We need to put a stop to the ongoing 'redevelopment' ASAP and design a new plan taking into consideration the changes already made and preventing any further damage to the park’s biodiversity.”
“Otherwise, Arroceros will no longer be a forest park but will just be the usual park, like Rizal Park which is just a fifteen minute walk from there,” she said.
--ANC, 18 November 2021