17 September 2007

Taking back the Arroceros Forest Park

I have heard of the Arroceros Forest Park mid-this-year, during the feverish election period. Mayors were elected, and then Lito Atienza (the outgoing Mayor of Manila) was appointed Environment Secretary. This appointment was controversial because his name was associated with Arroceros Park and the Mehan Garden: the former a thriving mini-forest in within bustling Manila, the latter the city's first zoological and botanical garden. And by controversial I mean in the negative sense. More so because it refers to destruction. Which is ironic, when you think about his being appointed the Environment Secretary.

I just read this bit of news in passing, but seeing Arroceros Park and knowing what it once was is really very disturbing. It started as a project of then Mayor Lim in 1991, the place became home to to 8,000 trees (61 species) and at least 10 species of birds. But in 2005 Mayor Atienza ordered the construction of the City Schools Division Office within the forest premises, prompting the killing of about 187 fully-grown trees and thousands of young trees and decorative plants inspite of protests.

Last July 1, the Arroceros Forest Park was returned to the NGO (Winners Foundation) who was originally tasked for its development. While we were having our orientation from Winners, we can feel their passion for the forest and their pain in seeing the old trees felled a couple of years ago. They have, from the moment of destruction to the time they regained the forest, tried to take care of the vegetation despite gates and doors being closed to their faces but degradation was imminent. The once rich canopy fell to human destruction and storm.

Now that the forest is back in their hands, it's time to build anew and make do with the land spared of the building construction.

When our company announced that the next Community Awareness Project was to plant trees at the Arroceros Forest Park, I signed up. I was surprised that the place was accessible by LRT. I wish I had seen the place prior to the construction of the building that now faces the entrance.
The trees await planting

Clearing up the land of wild grass and weeds

Collecting green rubbish for the compost heap

I've run out of film at the end of the activity. Hmmmm....

If you or your organization wish to take active part in the regreening of the Arroceros Forest Park, contact Hands On Manila for details.

To visit Arroceros, simply take an LRT ride along Taft Avenue and drop off at the Central Station. This is very near the Metropolitan Theater. Ask around where the new DepED building is. That's where the Forest Park is as well. It's a stone's throw from the LRT station.

Related links:
Getting Our Heritage to Survive the Ages by Augusto F. Villalon, NCCA

Foundation to get back Arroceros Forest Park by Inquirer.net

Arroceros Forest Park regained by The Manila Times Internet Edition

Arroceros regaining its green patches--environmentalists by Inquirer.net
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