Reviving Manila

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I’ve been going to my old haunts in Manila for the past two weeks and, man, I’m really disappointed to see how my city seems to have gone to the dogs.

That’s not to say it had actually seen any major improvement after somewhat rising from the ruins of World War II.

Like someone afflicted with cancer whose sickness surges and goes into remission, there were brief periods when it looked like things were getting better.

I remember the time when Lito Atienza was mayor and there seemed to be a lot of spending to prettify the sidewalks at the same time make the place more tourist friendly.

Sadly that was also the time when health centers all around the city didn’t have medical staff and even over-the-counter medicines.

In any case, my recent drives through Binondo, Malate, Pandacan and Santa Mesa served up the familiar traffic congestion, pollution and crowds spilling over.

However, a long chat with new friends over in Sta. Ana gave me somewhat of a shock.

The Arroceros Forest Park, also called the last lung of Manila, is being threatened. How exactly isn’t clear to me but it seems some manner of development is about to encroach in the “forested” space.

I would like to believe that my view on development versus conservation is rather balanced and unemotional.

After all, I was the lone voice that laughed at the dingbats who protested against a reclamation project in Manila Bay that would have eased congestion in Manila.

The climax of the protest was hundreds of hakot crowds holding hands along Roxas Boulevard to dramatize their opposition to a project that would have given Manila a state of the art business district.

I speculated, it would have eaten up demand for real estate and could have affected property prices.

But what was not speculation, at least according to another person who saw the good that the reclamation project would bring, was that Doris Magsaysay Ho was funding the protest.

I would have respected their position had they been more scientific instead of blatant fear mongering that played to the pseudo environmentalist crowds on Facebook.

But here’s the thing, I wasn’t even aware of the existence of Arroceros Park until I heard that it was being threatened.

I sure hope that the park won’t be turned into a mall, just like the park in Novaliches where a mall now stands.

Then again, public parks in Metro Manila are prone to a lot of neglect and one just wishes it could be managed better — read this as being properly maintained and secured. I personally wouldn’t mind if mall developers started taking over the maintenance of public parks and earn by charging people a fair fee for its use.

What are your thoughts?

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