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City Hall padlocks Seedling Bank

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As I See It

City Hall padlocks Seedling Bank

/ 12:45 AM July 11, 2012

The Manila Seedling Bank, that little bit of green in the concrete and squatter jungle of Quezon Avenue, has long filled the planting needs of Metro Manila and the rest of the country. From it, one can buy not only rare tree seedlings but also vegetable seeds, ornamental plants, cut flowers, fertilizers and other gardening needs. It also provides a green lung for Quezon City, which sorely lacks parks.

The Seedling Bank also provides gardening services and advice to home gardeners. After a storm, you can see its personnel helping clear streets of fallen trees, for free. During the last storm, a huge acacia tree in front of our house toppled and leaned on the roof. I called the Seedling Bank for help and it sent several workers in a pickup truck and carefully cut the tree piece by piece to avoid further damage and took the debris away. It took them a week to finish the job and I didn’t have to pay them anything.

The Quezon City government should have an agency like that to address the needs of its residents. (It should also have an animal welfare agency to take care of the pet needs of the residents. It has more than enough funds to do these things instead of letting councilors steal the money.)

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The Seedling Bank also reforested a whole mountain in Tanay, Rizal, with Benguet pines. Now the area looks like another Baguio. In fact, it probably has more pine trees than Baguio, whose primary attraction in the old days was its pine trees.

Officials of Quezon City and of the national government should be thankful that we have a Seedling Bank that is doing, for free, what the government should be doing.

But instead of being thankful, what did the Quezon City government do? Last Tuesday, the city administration padlocked the gates of the Seedling Bank. Nobody could go in or out, not even the workers who have to water the plants that will die after several days without water.

What was the reason? Nonpayment of real estate taxes, according to City Hall. But the city government is shooting from the hip. In the first place, the owner of the lot is the National Housing Authority (NHA). The Seedling Bank is only a lessee under a presidential decree. City Hall should go after the owner for the payment of realty taxes, not the lessee.

In the second place, shouldn’t City Hall issue a collection notice first before swooping down on the place and closing it down, a move that will result in losses and damage to the numerous garden shops doing business in the Seedling Bank? But City Hall issued no collection notice. Instead, it surprised the Seedling Bank’s management by sending policemen and City Hall personnel to padlock the gates.

City Hall has long coveted the Seedling Bank gardens. It wants to convert the place, along with the Ninoy Aquino Wildlife Park and even the Veterans Memorial Hospital golf course, into a business district. In short, those bits of open space with greenery and fresh air would be transformed into a concrete jungle. The NHA, in connivance with City Hall, had earlier tried to seize the Seedling Bank gardens. But the foundation has a valid lease agreement and went to court, which ordered the NHA to desist. City Hall obviously cannot wait for the injunction to expire. So it sent its storm troopers to padlock the gardens without any court order.

But there is plenty of government land on the other side of Quezon Avenue, where the Father Aguilar Zoo used to be. Only, it is now overrun by a squatter colony that has spread up to the Bureau of Internal Revenue premises. Why doesn’t City Hall reclaim this land and build its business district there? How can you have a reputable business district when just across the street from it is a colony of squatters? But of course City Hall is afraid of squatters because they are voters. So instead of going after lawbreakers, it is going after law-abiding citizens.

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The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is running out of gimmicks but the traffic situation in the metropolis, especially on Edsa, is going from worse to worst. Last Monday, traffic was at a standstill on the whole length of Edsa. Why? Because it was the first day of the MMDA’s latest order: All buses must stay inside the yellow lanes and are banned from the underpasses. They must use the flyovers.

But only a few bus drivers are obeying the MMDA. Buses swerve out of the yellow lanes at will and even usurp the three left lanes reserved for private vehicles. And on the whole length of Edsa from Makati to Quezon City in the early evening on Monday, I did not see a single MMDA traffic enforcer to direct traffic. Probably they were all in the restaurants having a free merienda or dinner.

I didn’t see any motorcycle cop either. Probably they were escorting funeral or wedding processions, or some VIPs.

Motorcycle cops are supposed to stop moving violations and chase speedsters and reckless drivers. But in all the time that I have been cruising Edsa and Commonwealth Avenue, I have never seen a single motorcycle cop chase a speeding vehicle or a vehicle swerving from lane to lane. Some time ago, a photograph appeared in the newspapers of these cops with their new motorcycles donated by a generous corporation. What happened to those motorcycles? Where are the motorcycle cops? Every now and then, I hear the wail of sirens and the roar of motorcycle engines, and a whole pack of them soon passes me by ahead of a convoy of vehicles of VIPs. But I don’t think there are that many VIPs, or funeral and wedding processions, to escort as to need the services of all of them. So where are they?

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TAGS: EDSA, featured column, manila seedling bank, Quezon City Hall, realty tax, traffic situation
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