What does good governance mean to Filipinos? Netizen May Hermosisima shared with Good News Pilipinas that positive leadership is about “safeguarding the country’s natural resources… [to] allay the effects of global warming and climate change”.
Renowned as an environmentally-friendly metropolis, Iloilo City is heeding this call by developing three unique tree parks for Ilonggos – offering an urban sanctuary that contributes to environmental conservation and provides a much-needed escape for residents.
The project will welcome three new public spaces: the Tree Park in Lanit, Jaro; the Beach Forest Park in Boulevard, Molo; and the Mangrove Eco Park in Hinactacan, La Paz. Through the installation of new bike lanes, the three parks will be linked to Iloilo City’s previously established public plazas and river esplanade.
Approved in 2021, the 3-hectare tree park in Lanit, Jaro will be a botanical garden bolstering endangered species of native trees; aside from strolling the exhibit area, livelihood center, amphitheater, and farm, visitors can check out the activity center where they can engage in meaningful, environment-focused conversations with the indigenous Ati population. Development of the park began in 2022, with an initial 300 bamboo planted in the area; as of August 2023, filling works are also underway to prepare the site for more tree planting.
Next on the list, the 1.6-hectare Beach Forest Park in Molo will show the best of Iloilo’s coastal beauty by exhibiting plants and marine life. Complete with an open cottage, nursery, sunset area, sunrise area, docking area, and more, the botanical garden and biodiversity conservation park was OK’d in 2021 and is currently being cleared for construction. Ilonggos have engaged in tree planting and cleanup activities at the site, with 21 native trees planted and 2,459 kg of garbage collected so far.
The highly-anticipated 35-hectare Mangrove Eco Park will conserve the city’s indigenous mangrove trees, with a learning center, gazebo boardwalk, and arboretum awaiting visitors. With the project approved in 2020, a whopping 4,700 mangrove propagules have already been planted in preparation for development.
“Iloilo City Tree Park Project aims to build interconnected eco-parks inside an environment[ally]-friendly metropolis, where people can appreciate nature while at the same time promoting the city’s rich biodiversity,” the Iloilo City Government stated in a Facebook post. The tree park network is under a moving timeline as the city is awaiting further funding.
All Things Green
“We really like the idea that the city is making tree parks,” said Jarrah Brillantes, a developmentalist and volunteer at the non-governmental organization Greenpeace Iloilo. Currently, Greenpeace Iloilo is engaged in small group discussions among its members regarding the tree parks.
The tree park initiative will add to the eco-conscious developments of the city, further reducing carbon emissions. In May 2023, Brillantes’ organization conducted a study mapping the urban heat of Iloilo; the full analysis is expected to be released by November. The research specifically measured Iloilo’s heat island effect: the phenomenon in which “buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat”, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This happens in urbanized areas where green spaces are lacking.
“From the data that we gathered, [we saw that] all the green spaces that we have here in Iloilo [are] actually lowering the heat that is being emitted or retained by several infrastructure[s],” she stated. Particularly, the study found that the mangrove trees along the esplanade and the trees situated by the bike lanes on Diversion Road had contributed to minimizing carbon emissions. “It’s something that we can be proud of,” she continued.
Just as the tree parks play a role in slowing climate change, so should they also uphold the native charm of Iloilo. Brillantes hopes the city can ensure the sustained upkeep and care of the tree parks by vigorously prioritizing endemic species of plants. “That’s closely related [to] whether it’s sustainable or not,” she explained.
The developmentalist suggested that the city can use the esplanade garden as a model for promoting the cultivation of indigenous plant species. “Most of the flowers [and] the horticulture that they have installed there [are] actually endemic,” she said, referring to the Lantana camara flower or the baho-baho. “Since they are endemic, they don’t need so much maintenance and they bloom the whole year.”
Without green areas such as these, Brillantes argued that a city’s recreational spots would only be overtaken by profit-oriented establishments – creating spaces that are not inclusive to all residents. “[There has been a] proliferation of coffee shops in the last 10 years, [especially] in the malls,” she contended. “That is because there are no green spaces… the commercial establishment[s are] taking advantage of that. And when it comes to being commercial, it’s not for all.”
“If you want to spend a slow Sunday [in Iloilo City], you can go to Jaro Plaza, and not spend anything, right? But what if we don’t have those kinds of spaces? Probably you’re going to spend your slow Sunday in a coffee shop, or in a mall,” she described. “So that would be a good call for other cities to also establish green spaces, because it’s a free space for people.”
“We don’t really have to subscribe to the commercialization of our lifestyle,” she declared. “[At the height of] the pandemic, when we were given a small window of time to go out, what [did] people do? They either go to the grocery, or they go for a walk, or they run [on the] esplanade… So it’s a good thing that kind of infrastructure [of open outdoor spaces] is available for us. People will not even think about [doing those activities] if the facility is not there.”
Thus, the three tree parks are positive expansions to Iloilo’s existing array of green spaces. Looking at the long term, however, Brillantes warned that the future of the parks not only rests on the government but on all Ilonggos. “[Green spaces] should not just be for leisure,” she asserted. “It should be [integrated into our] lifestyle and be used as a daily thing.”
By consistently utilizing these parklands, Ilonggos can ensure that the areas are well-maintained for future generations. The goal for Brillantes is to live in tandem with nature – “embedding it into the lives of people”, as she words it.
Amid the bustling concrete jungle, pockets of greenery are essential in keeping people’s connection to the natural world alive. Indeed, it is with our care and stewardship that these expanses can be continually nurtured – preserving the heartbeat of nature and community for years to come.
Good Governance is a series on Good News Pilipinas that celebrates positive government programs just like this one! Interested in learning more about other uplifting initiatives? Discover what the rest of the series has in store by following this link!
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