Impose rule of law on Arroceros Forest Park
ROSES AND THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - February 11, 2003 - 12:00am
In Intramuros, the Agustinians friars are doing their utmost to preserve the garden of Fr. Manuel Blanco, considered to be one of the ten most eminent foreign Filipinologists for his pioneering monumental book on Philippine plants entitled Flora de Filipinas. In Manila, the Spaniards established the Jardin Botanico that the Americans maintained as Mehan Garden. They even expanded it to a zoo. In 1993, the City of Manila entered into a contract with the Winner Foundation, a non-stock, non-profit corporation for the creation and development of a forest park in Arroceros. The park has an area of 21,428 square meters.

In a scope of ten years, the Winner Foundation planted 41 different kinds of trees: acacia mangium, acacia auriculiformi, african tulip, agoho, anahaw, aratolis, avocado, banana, banyan, bungan china, caimito, champaca, calachuchi, coconut, dapdap, eucalyptus, ficus benjamina, fire tree, golden shower, guava, ylang-ylang, Indian tree, kamagong, macopa, mahogany, McArthur palm, mango, molave, narra, neem, palomaria, palmera, rain tree, rattan, rubber tree, santol, talisay, teak, tiesa, yucca and yellow shower.

Members of the Haribon Society have noted that the park has attracted six different bird species, namely the long-tailed shrike, pied fantail, zebra dove, pacific swallow, yellow-vested bulbul and the brown shrike.

Last week, the Winner Foundation formally opened the park to the public. Instead of being thanked and lauded for its efforts in complying with its memorandum of agreement with the City of Manila, the foundation was confronted by demonstrators who claimed they were teachers marring the opening. What were they demonstrating against? The founders and officers of the Winners Foundation! Why? Because they represented the rich who live in plush villages outside Manila. If they had any objections to the activities of the Winner Foundation in Arroceros Park, why then did they wait ten years to voice their objection? Why didn’t they denounce the Manila City Hall for being the first party in the agreement?

The Memorandum of Agreement between the government of the City of Manila and the Winners Foundation clearly stated three things: First, that the city had authorized Winner to develop the park "in accordance with the plans that have previously presented by Winner to and approved by the City of Manila." Second, "City of Manila agrees to provide free of charge adequate security for the protection of the personnel who will be employed by Winner." Third, "once Winner has completed and developed the aforesaid forest park, it shall turn over the same to the control and supervision of the City of Manila, and the City of Manila agrees to maintain, operate and secure the park at its own expense and solely as a forest park.

Cited above are the issues involved in the Arroceros Forest Park controversy.

This is not a matter that can be settled by demonstrations. The rule of law must prevail! Was the Memorandum of Agreement between the Manila City Hall and Winner Foundation legal? Only the courts can decide that. All we are asking is for the rule of law to prevail.

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