By Ria Fernandez
If there is anything that can be said that Manila mayoralty candidates incumbent Mayor Joseph Estrada and former vice mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso have in common, it is that both would want the Arroceros Forest Park preserved.
Despite threats of converting the public garden into a school gymnasium during his term, Estrada, in his reelection platform, said that it will stay as it is, and it will even be opened to public to serve as passage in going to other places.
Based on his Sulong Maynila City Plan that aims for an urban renewal, hanging bridges will be built on the perimeter of the park for passers-by to enjoy the beautiful view from the top and inhale fresh air.
For his part, Domagoso vowed, in his talk with Manila Bulletin editors Thursday morning, during that he will not allow any attempt to sell the Arroceros Forest Park since it is one of the few remaining green spaces in the capital city.
“Payayabungin at aalagaan pa namin iyan na isang bloke na punong puno ng puno for the future,” he said, adding that his desire to protect the so-called “last lung” of Manila does not require him to be an environmentalist but it was “logic lang”.
It was under then Manila mayor Alfredo Lim, who is also contending for the mayoral seat in the May 13 polls, that the property was sold by Land Bank to the local government in 1993 on the condition that it would be used solely for educational, sports, and recreational and/or public service-oriented projects.
But a month before this, Lim entered into a 20-year memorandum of agreement with Winner Foundation to develop it into a forest park.
The present Arroceros Forest Park, situated beside Pasig River in the area of Lawton, has a forest cover consisting of more than 1,500 trees that serve as habitat for various animal species, including migratory birds.