ENVIRONMENT : The chopped trees in Clifford Park and the Mayor’s apology

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 November) — It is great that in Davao City we have a Mayor who takes command responsibility and recognizes and accepts when mistakes are made. We do appreciate this.

On the other hand, it is the height of folly and irresponsibility when implementors – whether government agencies or private contractors – of a project which in the words of the Mayor is intended as a park rehabilitation, come in and then the first thing they do is cut all the trees. What an irony!

Perhaps the Mayor didn’t see the actual design or program of work and trusted the implementors. Or the implementors, from the beginning, had other goals in mind, which would generate more income for them at the expense of the environment.

Of course, the sad reality is also that nobody knew about the plans for Clifford Park, until the trees were being felled. And that is where change is needed. That is where systems can and need to be improved so that this will not happen again in so many other places in the urbanized area in the City.

Concretely: When there are plans for upgrading or changing a public urban space, there should be formal announcements through media and public channels about what the plans are. Announcements should be made way ahead of time. On the site itself there should be big placards or signboards, informing citizens about the plans. Announcements should include a sufficient time period and deadline and channel for citizens’ feedback and comments. A system where citizens’ active participation and feedback is solicited, will help enhance people’s appreciation and care, once the area has been upgraded.

Can the City Council and/or the Committee on the Environment initiate the necessary steps to make this happen?

All citizens need to be guardians of the very limited public green spaces we have in the urban area in Davao City. All pockets with trees and greenery are precious. This is very much in line with one of the international standards of Making Cities Sustainable (Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 11) which say that every urban citizen is entitled to “Nature Nearby”, meaning: an accessible and green public space within walking distance from where one lives.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Arnold Vandenbroeck has been a resident of the Philippines for three decades, two of that in Davao City. Vandenbroeck was the first to raise the issue of chopped trees in Clifford Park that triggered a public outcry. Mayor Sara’s apology was in response to that outcry. Vandenbroeck is the founder and board member of the nterface Development Interventions (IDIS), is an advocate for more green spaces and parks in urban Davao, and is active in protecting the tree cover in Panigan-Tamugan watershed. This piece was first published on his FB page. With permission to reprint).