MANILA, Philippines – Manila’s famous riverside forest park is slated to open at the end of the month of January, Manila City Engineer Armand Andres told Rappler on Monday, January 10.
“It’s 80% to 85% done. You’ll be surprised at the transformation,” said Andres, about the 2.2-hectare Arroceros Forest Park which has been undergoing redevelopment for the past four months.
The park’s impending reopening comes at the heels of the reopening of another famous Manila landmark, the Manila Zoo, following renovations pursued by Moreno’s mayorship.
A livestream of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno’s inspection of the park last January 5 showed floating concrete walkways illuminated by lamps. The set-up is designed to allow the elderly, persons with disabilities, and children to enjoy the park even at night.
The park will also feature a new fountain, playground, and comfort rooms.
“Before, there we no bathrooms so people would urinate on the trees,” said Andres in Filipino.
The part of the park right beside the Pasig River will have an esplanade care of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission and the City Public Works and Highways department.
On top of that, the park has been expanded to take up even the area up to the Metropolitan Theater. This particular road will be closed to cars so that people can enjoy more open space.
A cafe will also rise in the area of Arroceros Park but Andres said they have not yet found a business group to set up the coffee shop.
Concerns with park redevelopment
Not all groups, however, had been happy with Arroceros Park’s make-over. The Save Arroceros Movement and Winner Foundation, back in November, had expressed dismay over the construction of floating walkways and other structures, saying this deviated from the idea of a forest park. For these two groups, the park should be kept as natural as possible, with no structures.
On November 22, Moreno met with the groups to listen to their concerns and brought them to Arroceros Park to discuss redevelopment plans.
Chiqui Sy-Quia Mabanta, a member of these groups, told Rappler last December 7 that they had asked Moreno and other city officials to consider simpler designs for the pathways, fountain, and benches. They had also asked that the developer not plant exotic plants but prioritize native flora instead.
Of these suggestions, Andres said they were unable to use wood for the walkways because they would supposedly get damaged easily. As for the request to use native plants, he said the groups promised to send some plants for the park but have not yet done so.
Naturalists may have something to say about Moreno’s suggestion on January 5 to put up speakers in the park that would play bird sounds.
Andres maintains Moreno’s assertion that no trees were cut in the main part of the park itself, but he admitted that some were cut down in the area of the esplanade. Moreno had previously said this was beyond the control of the city government since the project was spearheaded by the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.
The redevelopment and expansion of Arroceros Park is only a patch in Moreno’s long-term vision for a so-called Green City in Lawton. Declining to disclose a timeline, Moreno said their goal was to build 1,600 hectares of green space in the district as recommended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Arroceros Park had been constantly threatened by construction projects proposed by past Manila mayors, like a school building in 2003 under Lito Atienza and a gymnasium under the administration of Joseph Estrada.
In February 2020, Moreno sought to protect the park from destruction by signing an ordinance declaring it a “permanent forest park” and not just a city property that could be easily converted. – Rappler.com