Old Manila’s “Last Lung”: The Arroceros Forest Park

Originally authored on August 7, 2017

In the middle of the polluted downtown Manila area is the 2.2 hectare mini-forest of indisputable historical and archaeological value. Arroceros was derived from the Spanish words rice dealer, the trading post where Filipino dealers engaged in barter with Malay and Chinese traders in the 16th and 17th centuries. It also became the site of the historic Fabrica de Tabacos in the 19th century and was a military barrackĀ during the American era.

 

In November of 1993, with the approval and support of President and Mrs. Fidel Ramos, the Winner Foundation under memorandum of agreement with the City of Manila was mandated to create and develop a forest park in the DECS property owned by the City of Manila.

The park’s master plan was drawn by the landscape architect Wilfredo Dizon, the president of Philippine Association of Landscape Architects (PALA), who offered his services pro bono.

Significant collective efforts by forestry experts from UP Los Banos, DENR, and Araneta University; the Manila Seedling Bank, which was awarded the planting contract; assistance of MMDA, DPWH and City of Manila in clearing the debris of what was once DECS compound, favorably laid the groundwork.

Out of 150 existing century-old trees, Manila Seedling planted 3,500 saplings and maintained them for one year where Winner Foundation took over. On the third year, the trees were inventoried and tagged with their popular scientific names by UP Los Banos graduate forester. The Bulacan Gardens family was commissioned to landscape the front area.

Not in the foreseeable future some truth managed to emerge: that the life and development of the park was co-terminus with the City Mayor. In the midst of war between conservationists and the city government bent on building yet another concrete edifice over an old-growth forest, the power is in motion!

Last week, the Winner Foundation received a letter from the mayor of Manila ordering them to hand over the care and management of Arroceros Forest Park to its owner, the city of Manila. To quote, Chit Roces of Winner Foundation, “here’s one park already in existence for decades that is now in danger of being transformed regressively. Century-old trees and indigenous species may be cut down, and in their place perhaps another condominium will rise.”

“The future may be here, but what quality of men will be in charge of harnessing it?” Roces further quipped.

* – credits to the owner/s for the pictures

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