Arroceros Park, tagged as the last lung of Manila, has been declared a permanent forest park, after Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso signed Ordinance No. 8607, the Manila Public Information Office reported.
With the order, a portion of land located at Arroceros Street is not merely a property but now a permanent forest park. It is likewise open to the public and not for sale. The declaration is pursuant to Republic Act No. 5752, which mandates every municipality or city to establish, develop, and maintain a permanent forest, tree parks or watershed within public land owned by such local government.
For their part, the city government of Manila sees the move as a way of protecting the last “environmental frontier of the City,” as mentioned by CNN Philippines.
The urban forest houses over 3,000 trees of 61 varieties, and 8,000 ornamental plants in its 2.2-hectare wide lot, as mentioned in this Rappler report.
Saving Arroceros Park
To better preserve the park’s natural qualities, the city bans the cutting of trees, dumping of wastes, digging lands, and hunting plants and animals, among many others. Violators face a P2,500 fine for the first offense, P3,500 for the second and P5,000 for the third, which also may come with imprisonment up to a year, depending on the court’s decision.
“Peace officers,” tasked to keep the order in the area, will be the ones to record violators. Moreover, a Governing Committee will draft a management plan for the maintenance and operations of the park.
In support of the park’s operations, the city government earmarked P1 million. Additional funds will come from the environmental user fees collected from park visitors. The fee for Manila residents is P5, while those coming from outside of the area will pay P15. Exempted from the charges are visitors under humanitarian programs.
Developed in 1993, Arroceros Park quickly became one of the iconic attractions in Manila. It used to be the home of the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports (DECS), which is now known as the Department of Education. This is why it was labeled as “DECS property” for a while.
Plans for Expansion
In 2019, mayor Moreno revealed that he was considering expanding the urban forest. He vowed to plant more trees at a portion of Arroceros street at the corner of Metropolitan Theater and at the foot of the Quezon Bridge, as mentioned in this GMA News report.
Meanwhile, according to ABS-CBN News, one of Moreno’s expansion plans was to create an esplanade, an open area where people can walk leisurely, at the back of Arroceros. Moreno was also considering demolishing gates at the borders of the park, as he envisions a more open space. He believes that a park shouldn’t be “imprisoned.”
Conservationists lauded the Manila chief’s plans to expand Arroceros Park, Interaksyon reported. The Winner Foundation, the organization that has been taking care of the park for the longest time, was delighted with what they called “amazing plans for Manila.”
The Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society shared the plans on their social media page, expressing support for the Manila mayor’s move.
Manila as a Green City
The improvement and expansion of Arroceros Park is part of the bigger agenda of Moreno to make the country’s capital a ‘green city’. In a separate ABS-CBN News report, the Manila chief said that he wanted to create more verdant spaces around the city, aside from the existing Arroceros Park, Mehan Garden, and Sunken Garden.
The city hall park, for one, went through a makeover last September 2019, according to ABS-CBN News. It was the first green project of Moreno since he took office, with him noting that he wanted the government’s yard to be first in the clean-up. In its new look, the park was void of makeshift street food stalls, and instead had 3,000 capiz lights hanging on trees. There was pavement as well in the pathway behind the monument.
This year, in February, the dancing fountain in the park was introduced to the public. In the future, the local government will be working on building coffee shops near the area, as well as public toilets to improve the people’s park experience and entice them to stay.
Moreno vowed to build 1,600 hectares of green areas to qualify for the ‘green city’ label, as directed by the Department of Natural Resources (DENR).
Sources: Manila Public Information Office, CNN Philippines, Rappler, GMA News, ABS-CBN News, Interaksyon