Nature is abandoned by false lovers
Why did the birds stop singing and fly away from Arroceros Forest Park?
The Haribon Society and the Wild Bird Club have seen and identified around 30 species of migratory birds resting or living in the mini-forest. They chirped and chirped under the dark canopy of 3,500 endemic or native trees – including 150 century-old survivors of World War II and other trees 30 years and older and older – in the Arroceros Forest Park. Fragile seedlings and young trees of a varied variety grow undisturbed, such as acacia, agoho, anahaw, banyan, kamagong, mahogany, molave ââand narra, between others.
Arroceros Park is a natural forest, where the ground cover of small plants keeps the soil moist and rich in natural compost from fallen leaves and broken twigs. Like a womb, the forest provides a natural incubation for life and growth. Between the latticed canopy of old trees and the mottled ground vibrates the chi of virgin nature, refreshed by the gentle breath of the Pasig river which skirts the protected forest of 2.2 hectares.
In a 2016 study of urban green spaces in Manila, Arroceros was found to have the highest proportion of forest cover among other parks in Manila Fifth Electoral District. It also has one of the highest vegetation rates, one of the resilience parameters that “improves infiltration, reduces surface runoff, prevents siltation and ultimately reduces exposure to flooding”, indicates the study (https://www.sciencedirect.com). The high canopy cover of Arroceros also helps regulate the city’s temperatures, which can sometimes reach 38 degrees Celsius / 100 degrees Fahrenheit (https://news.mongabay.com).
âManila’s Last Lungâ is the city’s only natural park, encapsulated in the face of heavy traffic pollution in the city of about 1.85 million people. The 2019 average pollution index for Metro Manila was 18.2 US AQI (Air Quality Index), placing it in 5th place.e most polluted city in the Philippines. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the safe level of air quality ranges from 10 ug per cubic meter of PM2.5 or less. WHO said that in 2018, there were 45.3 air pollution-related deaths per 100,000 population in the Philippines. It was the third highest in the world, after 81.5 pollution-related deaths in China and 48.8 deaths per 100,000 population in Mongolia. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted in 2016 that âArroceros Forest Parkâ¦ can remove 30 tonnes of particulate matter per year. It provides a “lung” for the city. “
The Arroceros Forest Park is said to be one of the most treasured and protected natural sanctuaries, and it is a historical icon – once the first of three “pariens” that have contained and suppressed the local Chinese community since the rebellion of the Chinese traders at the start of Spanish colonization. period to 19e century. The Parian de Arroceros served as a market place and trading post for Chinese merchants. Among the products marketed at the time was rice, hence the term arroceros, which means “rice farmers” in Spanish.
The space freed by the Parisian had been used as a temporary “holding zone” for the junk for government activities both during the Spanish era and during the American occupation, throughout World War II. global. It was not until after the offices of the government’s education department, once ‘parked’ in the area, were moved to their current location in Pasig in 1993, that the concept of the Arroceros Forest Park was developed. formalized. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the City of Manila and the Winner Foundation, a proactive private environmental group, to work with the Manila Seedling Bank and manage reforestation efforts to resuscitate and nourish ‘Manila’s last lung’ (The Filipino star, retrieved June 10, 2015).
Did many place great importance on the Arroceros Forest Park as it grew and flourished into a lonely environmental sanctuary in the heart of polluted Manila? Unfortunately, the stream of elected mayors of the city of Manila did not really respect the forest park (with the exception of Mayor Alfredo Lim, who gave free rein to the Winner Foundation in the management of reforestation). And few ordinary citizens come to visit and enjoy the forest park. There doesn’t seem to be a deep passion for the environment. Sad.
âYet despite the respite the park offers its avian and human visitors, the mayors of Manila have persisted in insisting on getting rid of it. Lito Atienza, who was mayor from 1998 to 2007, authorized the shaving of part of the park for a new government building, while Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada, former president and mayor from 2013, wanted to turn the park into a school gymnasium . “(https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/).
Enter Mayor (Yorme) “Isko” Moreno (Francisco Domagoso) after winning his longtime idol Mayor Erap in the 2019 municipal elections. Bringing with him his image of a boy in love in the morning in romance movies Locals of the 1990s, young and old alike have faded into romantic hero worship for what he promised to do for Manila. A big come-on, aside from his good looks and supposedly ‘clean’ image, is that he was born and raised in the slums of Tondo, Manila, where he spent his childhood supporting his family in searching for leftover food and rummaging through garbage piles. of “Smokey Mountain”. Isko would surely be a passionate lover and protector of the environment.
Thus, the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) staff of the Winner Foundation and the cooperator of the Manila Doctors’ Hospital met Isko when he took office as mayor, to advocate for the definitive cancellation and official of former Mayor Erap’s ongoing project to raze much of the forest park to set up a full-service gym. And Isko signed Manila City Ordinance No.8607 on February 27, 2020, declaring the land along Arroceros Street as a âpermanent forest parkâ instead of just being âpropertyâ (Rappler, 3 March 2020).
“The use and enjoyment of the forest park of Arroceros must be compatible with the principles of sustainable development and the right of the population to a balanced and healthy ecology”, indicates the ordinance.
The ordinance prohibits the cutting of trees, dumping of rubbish and any form of excavation in the area. Offenders will be fined 2,500 P for the first offense, 3,500 P for the second offense and 5,000 P fine and / or imprisonment for up to one year. , at the discretion of the court, for their third offense. (Ibid.).
But when Regina “Ninit” Roces-Paterno, President of the Winner Foundation, and Chiqui Sy-Quia Mabanta, President, along with other environmental activists visited the Arroceros Forest Park on November 13, 2021, it was a shock that the Mayor Isko was already implementing. its September 2021 development plan for the Lawton region, near the Arroceros Forest Park. The construction was not supposed to encroach on the natural park, but only outside its perimeter.
Paterno sent this message on Viber:
âI am so sad to report to the Catholic Women’s Club that the Manila city administration under Isko Moreno has practically ruined the forest as part of its desire to turn it into a theme park with stairs and elevated walkways. The CWC area is virtually destroyed with two structures being built in the front area. In our second project next to the bridge they covered the fish pond and it is used to dump construction materials and debris.
âI was with a group of environmental organizations and we were all shocked and disgusted by a total disregard for environmental laws.
âWe hope it is not too late to stop what is happening. They have hundreds of men who work quickly and fill the area with concrete grounds and paths.
âFive natural ponds were filled with soil and all secondary trees and ground cover were destroyed in their desire to make it look like Luneta. They should have chosen another region because this forest took almost 30 years to grow without counting the 150 pre-war trees. The Winner Foundation planted 3,000 trees from the Manila Seedling Bank. And finally, CWC planted over 100 trees not to mention the maintenance of two workers for several years.
âA sad day for environmentalists! said Paterno.
Nature is again rejected by false lovers.
Amelia HC Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.