MANILA, Philippines – Manila's so-called last lung will stay as it is, the capital's newly elected mayor vowed on Saturday, May 18.
Mayor-elect Isko Moreno Domagoso told Rappler that he will not allow any construction that would destroy trees inside the Arroceros Forest Park in Manila City.
"Now that I am the mayor-elect, no, no, no. It will be retained as Arroceros park, full of trees that help us breathe better in Lawton," Moreno said in a Rappler Talk interview.
Dubbed as "the last lung of Manila City," Arroceros Forst Park is a patch of green land located in Antonio Villegas Street in the central district of Ermita. The park is about 2.2 hectares wide and is home to over 3,000 trees of 61 varieties, and 8,000 ornamental plants.
The park has been under threat after the administration of outgoing Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada outlined a plan to build a gymnasium inside. This caused uproar from Manileños and environmentalists from other localities. A 96,000-signature Change.org online petition calls on the city to stop the plan.
Moreno said he will block the project, adding that he suspects the supposed gymnasium was evisioned to turn into a cockpit. (WATCH: Isko Moreno, Batang Tondo)
"Meron na nga kami sa Sta. Ana eh, natotolerate na nga 'yun eh...Tapos dadamihan na naman namin? So ano kami, magiging sugalan na lang kami sa Maynila? (We already have one in Sta. Ana that is tolerated...Then we'll add another one? Are we just going to be a gambling area in Manila?)" Moreno said.
He added that Arroceros park provides fresh air in a vital artery of Manila: Lawton. There, Moreno said, thousands of commuters from other cities, and students from their city college, the Universidad de Manila, pass through every day. (READ: Sustainable skylines: The future of green architecture in Metro Manila)
He is confident that he can halt the gym's construction as he enjoys the backing of the majority of the city councilors, and also the support of the majority of barangay captains in the capital.
"Imagine the daily fumes here in the city of power...That is why we need it," Moreno said. – Rappler.com