Preserving Davao City's Green Spaces

Environmentalists and concerned citizens were in an uproar when the City Council of Davao passed an amendment to the City Land Use Plan in January of this year.

The amendment removes the required 10% allotment for green space mandated upon housing developers. The green space requirement is incorporated into the 30% open space requirement.

Under the present law, 30% of the total land area of the housing development is for open spaces (for use of clubhouse, roads, drainage and other facilities.) In Davao City, developers are required to allot 40% of their land  to open spaces (30%) and green spaces (10%).

The green spaces are for village parks and tree parks. Housing developers have argued that only 60% of their land will be left for housing thus the request for the amendment.

According to the proponents in the city council, the amendment will benefit the buyers as it would lower property prices, most developers would add-on the cost of the green space to the prices of the property.

However cause-oriented groups rallied against the amendment, stating that they were not invited to the committee hearings which led to the amendment and also the amended law would mean the loss of precious green spaces which the city lacks.

Ultimately the amendment was vetoed by the City Mayor. The amendment was cited as vague, ambiguous and ultra vires (beyond the power of the council)

The foregoing controversy have opened the eyes of many Dabawenyos to the importance of green spaces to the City.

The City Government of Davao maintains about 16 parks, 6 landmarks and 148 center islands. The City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) is the local government agency task in maintaining these public green spaces.

Among these public parks include Rizal Park (Plaza), Osmeña Park, Magsaysay Park, Centennial Park, Millenium Park, Clifford Park, Quezon Park and the People's Park. Other greenbelts and green spaces include the Dacudao Avenue Greenbelt and the Buhangin Flyover.

Aside from public parks there are also private properties which had served as parks or green spaces and opened to the public. There is the wide expanse of the Riverfront Corporate City or known as the Crocodile Park complex, the Adarna-owned Davao Baywalk Park, the Shrine of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague in Matina Shrine Hills and the Aboitiz owned Cleanergy Park formerly known as the Turtle Sanctuary.

Save for the four-hectare People's Park, many of the existing parks are small and are not actually green, Rizal Park is a cemented plaza with plant and tree boxes, Quezon Park is also a small park with limited green space.

In 2016, the urbanized area of Davao City is about 40,000 hectares (Davao City's total land area is 244,000 hectares) of the urbanized area the total public park spaces amounts to only 14.76 hectares. In contrast the average size of a park in Singapore is about 24 hectares.

The ideal ratio would be 10 square meters of parks per person and if multiplied by the city's 1.5 million population we should have 1,500 hectares of parks and open spaces or 3.75% of the urbanized area of Davao City.

Based on the size of our public parks, the public green spaces accounts for just .037% of the total urban area.

The Rizal Park is a concrete civic space, barely no room for greenery except for plant and tree boxes
Trees abound inside the Osmeña Park

The People's Park was originally the site of the PTA Sports Complex.
The Millennium Park is actually a large center island, it is designated as a Freedom Park 
Dacudao Avenue green belt, the road runs along a drainage canal  which is is lined with 672 mature trees. it is considered as a
green space
The mangrove walk  at the Aboitiz-owned Cleanergy Park in Punta Dumalag, Matina Aplaya. A hectare of mangroves can sequester 1.5 metric tons of carbon per year.

The private green spaces though largely open to the public is subject to development and changes as dictated by the needs of the owners.

Thus there is a need for the city to maintain and expand public parks and green spaces for its growing population.

Benefits of Green Spaces

According to studies green spaces provide health benefits to its residents. Access to these green spaces have resulted to residents with better perceived general health, lowered stress levels and reduced depression.

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is a health risk and access to parks provide residents with enough levels of physical activity for a healthy lifestyle.

Early morning zumba at the People's Park

One prime example of this health and lifestyle role is the Peoples Park which provides an area where people can jog or in early morning have their regular Zumba exercises.

For environmental purposes, parks with their trees help in sequestering carbon thus contributing in mitigating global warming. Greenbelts and linear parks with their shady trees can motivate people to walk to their destination instead of using cars.

The importance of trees in controlling green house gases is much more pronounced nowadays as according to the Philippine Climate Change Commission the global temperature change has reached 1 degree celsius.

If super typhoons such as Yolanda, Pablo and Sendong and devastating El Niño dry spells occurred in a .8 degree celsius change, picture out the calamities in a much warmer world.

For tourism green spaces provides aesthetic beauty and are regarded as destination for tourists. Magsaysay Park had their seaside view of the Davao Gulf while durian stalls in the edge of the park is a must-see tourism come-on. The over 1,000 species of plants in the People's Park makes the park a veritable botanical garden.

For historical purposes, the parks also shelters monuments and other historical markers. Osmeña Park was the site of the old Christian settlement founded in mid 19th century by Spanish conqueror Don Jose Oyanguren, Millenium Park contains a monument which signifies Indonesian-Philippine friendship.

Parks also are havens of arts and culture as it hosts various installation arts  such as statues, sculpture and other crafts. Magsaysay Park and Peoples Park contains these art works made by talented local artists.  While the Davao Baywalk Park built by motel mogul Teodorico Adarna (father of actress Ellen Adarna) contains the replicas of Michelangelo's Statue of David and the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.

Old Davao settlement monument in the middle of Osmeña Park with old Spanish

The Monument of Peace and Unity made by artist Kublai Millan is the centerpiece of the
 Centennial Park 
A controversial replica of Michelangelo's Statue of David at Davao Baywalk and Park
When it was built some City Councilors found the replica as lewd, it being located
adjacent to a well-known motel

There are some the parks in residential subdivisions among the large-size parks and playgrounds are those in Marfori, Lanzona and DBP Village. These green spaces are in various states of condition, some are well-maintained, while others are in the state of neglect.

Perhaps the CENRO with the homeowners association or the barangay can help in the upkeep of these community parks.

Davao City still has plenty of greenery; however these are found in private properties and it will be a matter of time when these lush greens will give way to urbanization and development.

Thus there is a need to preserve the remaining green spaces in a developing city and rather than reduce spaces allotted for greenery in housing developments, current provisions concerning green spaces must be protected from amendments.

A well-maintained park in a private subdivision


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