BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/26 January) – Work is now underway with a budget close to P5 million for the first major rehabilitation and reconstruction of the city’s Rizal Park since the 1950s.
“The renovation plan is to make the park a better and wholesome place for families and individuals to hang out. Adding more lighting and clean space, making it safer for everyone. We will remove the ‘rugby’ boys and prostitution that have plague the image of our park for years,” said Mayor Ferdinand M. Amante Jr.
The mayor also assured they would find ways to provide alternative means of sustainable livelihood for the prostitutes and a place and rehabilitation for the solvent-addicted street children who used to stay in the park’s premises.
Greg Hontiveros, president of the Butuan City Heritage Society, said that the park has been part not only of Butuan’s history but also of the entire region.
“The park was a public square during the late Spanish period, and in January 17, 1899 witnessed the first official raising of the Philippine flag by the Aguinaldo government in Mindanao. So far the renovation poses no threat to the historical significance of the park as long as the centennial flag pole, the Rizal monument and the century-old Acacia trees will not be touched,” he said.
The park was reconstructed during the boom of the logging industry in the mid-1950s, naming it Guingona Park. The flourishing logging industry inspired and prompted Rep. Marcos M. Calo to file a bill converting Butuan into a city on August 2, 1950, the same year Iligan and Cagayan de Oro became cities. Later in the 1960s, the park was renamed Rizal Park.
Located at the heart of the city between A.D. Curato St. and Ester Luna St. just infront of the Saint Joseph Cathedral, the park used to be the city’s pride in the early 1980s with its colorful fountains and landscape. But in recent years the park has been a victim of neglect and small structural readjustments with no adequate maintenance.
The Madjaw Construction and Development Corporation was awarded with the contract November last year after it won the bidding.
A planned phase II and expansion of the park is hoped to be the next step after the renovation is completed creating a promenade and shops along the street corner. (Erwin Mascariñas / MindaNews)