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Naturalists Want to Turn Manila Park into Bird Haven

Posted: 11:56 PM (Manila Time) |
Date: Jan. 20, 2003
By Jerome Aning
Inquirer News Service

Conservationist groups have asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to declare Arroceros Forest Park a bird sanctuary in a bid to prevent the Manila city government from constructing a building for teachers on the site.

Bird watcher Mike Lu said the park is the only bird site in Manila, adding that his group had spotted seven bird species, which have made the park their home.

Declaring the park a bird sanctuary would also require that the park be left undisturbed.

In another move by other environment and conservationist groups determined to block construction on the park, the National Historical Institute was asked to declare the Arroceros Forest Park historical and forbid any construction on the site.

Conservationist and historical researcher Tina Testa said her group has asked the NHI to declare the park historical since it is part of the Parian, which is the site of Manila's first Chinese community and trading center.

She said the Parian already existed in the area even before the Spaniards came.

Testa explained that Arroceros got its name from the portion of the Pasig's riverbank where grain merchants from provinces unloaded rice for distribution. Arroz is rice in Spanish, she said.

Last year, the NHI declared the nearby Mehan Gardens a national historical landmark because it was the site of the Parian and the city's first botanical garden.

The Winner Foundation, the park's developer, have asked the help of environment and conservationist groups to stop the city government from building on Arroceros Park.

Last week, Atienza said that City Hall is determined to construct a teachers' building despite Winner's opposition.

Winner president Regina Roces-Paterno said the 15-year development the park expires in 2013. She said the 3,500 trees on the park would not be able to stand full public opening and the construction of a building at this time.She said the development of the park is only in the second phase (2002-2007), which provides for the park's partial opening to the public and secondary planting to protect it from erosion.

Atienza's insistence to build on the park is based on his contention that it was bought for 65 million pesos using the city's special education fund. He said it is just fair that the teachers benefit from it.