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August 22, 2005

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soloflite

Never been there, but this really is another show of shortsightedness from our politicians.

Other countries like Singapore really work hard to promote a "Garden City" type of environment, whereas we just keep shooting ourselves on the foot, environmentally.

marilyn

Exactly! Or Sacremento in California -- there was an article last week comparing the destruction of aroceros with sacremento. Its crazy - so many other place for a buiding. There must be money involved.

urbanodelacruz

Atienza seems to have this personal siege mentality that makes him take a bullheaded stance the more he is challenged.

Remember the demolition of the Jai-Alai building (that gem of an Art Deco project) - he encountered resistance then and became bullheaded anyway. Look where that project is now: a shuttered-empty lot.

To his credit though, he is one of the few Metro Manila mayors undertaking urban planning/design projects. (Only Belmonte and Marides Fernandez come to mind.)

In as much as this is shortsightedness as far as city hall is concerned, I also see this as the failure of the defenders of Arroceros Park to build a viable coalition to oppose the project. Perhaps the experience here can be a starting point for encouraging more citizen involvement in a wider set of urban issues.

Single dimension concerns have a way of being bulldozed over by a determined city hall (pun intended) when the opposition has not done the spade work of building a citizen's coalition.

In other countries, the urban issues coalitions are composed of advocates from housing, the environment, civic spaces, architects, enlightened developers, historical preservationists, etc. -all of whom realize that they have a shared stake in the future of the city, beyond NIMBYism.

Chiqui

I joined Winner Foundation two years ago because I believed in what it was doing. It is always possible to highlight ways in which an organization could improve, but overall I think Winner Foundation has done a reasonable job at reaching a wider constituency, given its limited resources.

By promoting the park as a venue for artists, Winner has not only enhanced the park’s value, it has also engaged Manila’s artistic community, an often neglected group, in the city’s environmental issues. It has enlisted support from Toti Villalon and Paulo Alcazaren (architects); John Silva (of Friends of the National Museum); famous artists like Bencab and Araceli Dans (artists) and influential women like Bea Zobel, Governor Grace Padaca, Maribel Ongpin, and Winnie Monsod. Raul Roco was a big supporter of the park. It has organized many special events, such as Earth Day w/ Earth Phils & Earth Day Intl which is the umbrella org of over 100 NGOs, free concerts w/Paolo Santos & Gary Granada, and childrens’ painting events. It has arranged for trips to the park by children from orphanages and cancer patients of PGH. Students from several schools such as PWU, IS, La Salle, Miriam Grad School, Sta. Isabel, public schools from Manila, Chiang Kai Shek HS, San Beda, Ateneo & UP have come for either volunteer clean-ups or art classes or botany study grps. It has maintained constant contacts with the press. It has engaged environmental lawyers to fight its case in the courts.

We value Urbano’s comments. We can always do more and we would be happy to take on board any constructive suggestions that he or anyone else might have.

Gigi

Does it bother anyone that Mayor Atienza, who claims to be pro-life, is more concerned about battling birth control than in preserving the environment? Is his definition and view of life so narrow that it only refers to what women choose to do with their own bodies? He claims to treasure human life -- but doesn't seem to realize that its true value doesn't merely lie in the act of living but also in the quality of life we live.

How can he describe himself pro-life if he doesn't seem to care about preserving clean air, which is essential to life itself? I just don't get it. In our tropical environment, buildings age and deteriorate within 10 years, while trees grow, thrive, and help to sustain life in the same amount of time.

urbanodelacruz

chiqui,

my response was less of a critique of the gains of the Winner Foundation (which, by your comment and by the amount of press the issue has been getting has certainly done an excellent job of making the place a great park) than it was a comment on the state of politics in our cities. and by politics, i mean politics with a small p.

as much as the country has learned to cobble coalitions to topple presidents, we have yet to organize effective urban leagues to oppose what we see as unwise development. (Another example is the experience of the campaign to protect trees on Katipunan Ave.)

I also think it is an accident of location -that the arroceros park and the mehan garden is neighbor to no residential area that can claim it as it's backyard -residential areas that, as voters, could hurt a particular mayoral ally -bringing that consequence to bear on the mayor's decisions.

Mayors hurt most when the vote is on the block - as much as Winner succeeded in bringing attention to the fight over the park -the consequences for the environment, culture and our heritage -it was not able to make the issue a threat to the mayor's or any barangay official or councilor's re-election bid. Nor was it able to dangle any other serious consequence apart from bad press. But as the maxim goes in Philippine Politics (-with a big P), any press is good press.

chiqui

I see what you mean. And that's true about the location -- it is quite isolated from residential areas. I guess the question is how to make the park a public issue so that people don't just see it as an insignificant area but as a critical part of the urgent need to help the city breath. That is an issue that affects every single person living in Manila. The phrase "last lung of Manila" has been used a lot to help bring this point but it obviously doesn't hit hard enough..

urbanodelacruz

more unsolicited advice: I would've used (and this is just off the top of my head) "huling bakasyunan sa maynila" rather than "last lung..."

I think it would have appealed to the desires of the local population who have to live in crowded communities - to find a quiet space in manila, where they can come in for free, to enjoy the trees. it would have appealed to the working man with no real time for an out of town vacation. It would have made them ask "why do we have to live like this?" (gut reactions, values) rather than "why are trees so important?" (logic, science).

as a learned communicator once said, "we are persuaded by reason, but we are moved by emotions"

but like I said, that's off the top of my head and we'd have to bounce it off the comms experts for some testing.

It also begs for a longer term campaign to get people to ask "why is the city like this? why are there no open spaces?"

chiqui

Excellent ideas. Pls feel free to give unsolicited advise re: arroceros anytime.

Major Tom

There ought to be a law against further diminishment of forestries within the city limits. With fogging and smogs escalating in the urban jungle, felling just one tree can be as cruel as plain murder.

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