A Position Paper of
The Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP) and
The Philippine Association of Landscape Architects (PALA)
Parks and public open space are an essential component of community life. They contribute to the enhancement of the cultural, social, economic, environmental and political functions of towns and cities. They are the first elements that distinguish the character of a place from a chaotic and unplanned settlement to a more pleasant and well managed town or city. They support a broad spectrum of activities and interaction between people and nature, and sustain critical environmental functions for the health of communities. Along with other community services and infrastructure, public open spaces are important public assets that contribute to livable, safe and sustainable communities.
We the members of the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP) and the Philippine Association of Landscape Architects (PALA), however, are deeply concerned with the lack of appreciation of and support to the provision of parks and public open spaces in the country. We are alarmed by not only the inadequate quantity and poor quality of our parks and open spaces, but especially also the inappropriate conversion of the few remaining ones to commercial uses.
The value of parks and public open spaces is largely overlooked or underestimated by policy-makers, local leaders, and developers. There are a number of reasons for this, such as the lack of resources, understanding or capacity to use the possibilities of parks and public open spaces as a complete, multi-functional urban system. The lack of coherence among existing legislation, weak political will, institutional fragmentation, and the absence of the means for public engagement compound the problem.
Meanwhile, our towns and cities are rapidly urbanizing. According to the World Bank, the Philippines is one of the fastest urbanizing countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region. In the past 50 years, the country’s urban population grew by over 50 million people, and by 2050, approximately 102 million (more than 65 percent of the country’s total population) will reside in cities. This unprecedented urban population growth and changing demographics are increasing the need for additional public open space to support a wide range of activities. Actually, even our few remaining city and town plazas are being built upon while some of our major parks are being converted into commercial hubs. Concurrently, our urban landscape is rapidly changing in keeping up with this growth while the potentials for providing public open space before all lands are built upon are not being pursued. Increasing densities, continuing urban population growth, climate change, and resource depletion are adding further importance on the provision of public open space.
Take the case of Metro Manila, which is one of the most dense and rapidly growing cities in the world. Because of the lack of planning, regulations and resources, Metro Manila is becoming increasingly congested and disconnected with nature. People are left with very little amount of open space. In fact, Metro Manila falls well below international standards. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of 9 square meter of green open space per person. According to the Green City Index, Metro Manila currently has 5 square meters per person. To reach the recommended standard, Metro Manila will need to add 52 square kilometers of green open space, roughly the size of Manila and Makati combined.
The Benefits of Open Space
Open space provides an array of social, health, economic and environmental benefits to individuals and communities as a whole. It is an essential ingredient for enhancing the livability of an area and improving the quality of life of its residents. Rapid urban population growth, increasing densities, resource depletion and climate change are all placing further importance to the provision of quality open space. Easy access to well designed and diverse open spaces will assist in not only managing the impacts of these challenges, but also enhancing the benefits that open spaces provide. There is a significant body of international research and knowledge of the wide ranging benefits of open space, which include:
In consideration of the above, we the members of PIEP and PALA recommend the following immediate actions:
For PIEP: For PALA:
Maria Theresa Quimpo Eric Estonido