Site of new Nayong Pilipino now abandoned | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Site of new Nayong Pilipino now abandoned

/ 12:30 AM July 06, 2012

My two columns on the overdevelopment of Quezon Memorial Circle have drawn many comments from people who dislike what is being done to it. A number of comments may be summarized this way: The park is being overdeveloped to provide favored contractors costly projects that will elicit their gratitude and what goes with it. A few of the comments on the columns have been published as letters to the editor, including one each from park administrator Tadeo Palma and Greg Bañacia, press relations man of the Quezon City administration, who, on the other hand, defended the “concretization” of the park.

The common criticism of Quezon Memorial Circle is that it has become overdeveloped when a park is supposed to offer the people more space, fresh air, trees, grass, plants, flowers—in short, a place for them to escape the concrete jungles they live in. Too many structures are being built inside the park, making it crowded and cramped. Grass is being removed and replaced with concrete, and the land made into parking lots.

The park also probably has the biggest concentration of sari-sari stores in the Philippines.  Only, not all of them are stores but dwelling places for squatters masquerading as store owners. Three seminar halls with different names have been built and a large museum and book store are being built, occupying a large part of the park, when there is already a museum at the Quezon Monument and book stores are abundant not only in Quezon City but also throughout Metro Manila, the letter writers say.

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The latest letter writer is former Quezon City Vice Mayor Charito Planas, for many years the administrator of the park and who ran it on a shoestring budget from donations. Many people, this columnist among them, preferred the park then rather than the concrete jungle it is becoming now, with the unlimited funds that the city administration is allocating from taxpayer money.

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Charito’s letter, however, is about another park, Nayong Pilipino, which she also administered. Being adjacent to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the park provided travelers a miniature Philippines in a single theme park. The whole country was captured in 45 hectares of miniatures of different provinces and their tourist attractions. The concept was a prime tourism booster as it sold right at the doorstep of an international gateway what one could see and experience in the country.

Alas, development has made a victim—again—of Nayong Pilipino. The airport needed more space and the park, despite its contribution to the economy via tourism, was sacrificed. More than eight hectares of the park was transferred to the then Manila International Airport for the latter’s expansion and modernization. More important, Nayong Pilipino was seen as a threat to the safety of planes landing at and taking off from the airport because its enormous garden and many trees were pinpointed as a sanctuary and breeding place for birds (which pose danger to aircraft).

This resulted in the closure of Nayong Pilipino’s Visayas and Mindanao areas in 2004. In exchange, the Philippine Reclamation Authority allotted 15 hectares of reclaimed land along Manila Bay in Pasay City for the site of the Bagong Nayong Pilipino Cultural and Heritage Park.

After studies and consultations with various government agencies, the board of directors of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) led by Planas, its executive director, spearheaded the construction of the new park as mandated by Executive Order 111.

The first phase of the project, the horizontal development, was completed in 2010; the second and third phases, the vertical development (or the construction of the structures) were targeted for completion by December 2011. These, however, did not materialize as the then NPF officials were all declared “midnight appointees” and replaced by a new set of appointees.

Thus, despite the completion of the first phase of the construction of the new Nayong Pilipino, the second phase was stopped by the new set of officers.

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Planas emphasizes that the project went through all the processes required by the government, from consultations to collaborations with other government agencies, the conduct of public bidding for all the construction phases, to the certifications and allotment of available funds without the necessity for any additional budget from the national government.

All other measures to generate savings were likewise taken by the NPF management, Planas adds. An architectural design competition was launched for the park. It was opened to and participated in by students of architectural schools. The NPF was able to come up with a beautiful plan for a new park for the measly sum of P500,000; there was no need to hire expensive architectural firms.

The inaction of the new NPF officials put to waste the hundreds of millions of pesos invested in the horizontal development of the new park. The site, equipped with sewerage as well as electrical and other land development components, is now abandoned and overgrown by wild grass. In short, all that was accomplished and funded with taxpayer money to the tune of P238,561,463.51 is now nothing more than a huge wasteland.

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Says Planas: “In our country, hundreds of millions of pesos of taxpayer money are squandered not only through corruption but also through projects that were conceived for worthy purposes but were discontinued and abandoned due to the ‘policy of no continuity.’”

TAGS: featured column, Nayong Pilipino, public parks, quezon memorial circle, Tourism

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