I wish I could take credit for the title of this post but, it was actually wildlifemayie’s reaction when I told her yesterday who the new Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief was.
In case you don’t read the papers, its in all the headlines. The new DENR head is former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza.
Former Mayor Atienza is most known for his urban development projects – sidewalk paving and road repair, fancy street lights and Baywalk – the man is an architect by trade. I covered the last year of his term as Manila Mayor and in fairness, he is not the devil incarnate.
But – from what I have personally seen and heard – I feel quite justified in squawking in outrage that the man knows nothing about the environment.
For heavens sake, he destroyed the Mehan Gardens and built a school building in Arroceros Forest Park.
I actually covered the opening of the Department of City Schools building in Arroceros Park. He renamed the park “People’s Park,” stated that the building did not take up the entire forest park and that the park was open for all the people of Manila to enjoy a slice of nature.
Then he said that he had plans to approve it. That there were no birds in the forest park because – and he claimed that he had experts to back this up – the trees in the park were not the sort that birds lived in. The experts he mentioned were never identified and as far as I know, other experts from Haribon and the Wild Bird Club have stated that there are at least ten bird species that made the park its home.
Of course that was before trees were cut down and construction began on the building.
The caretakers of Arroceros is the Winner Foundation, they fought long and hard to prevent any construction in the park. For their trouble they were banned from the park.
Not only that but – when the park was re-opened to the public – they were still not allowed. Apparently the guards on the gate were under orders to not let them in.
Then when Milenyo hit and trees were brought down by its winds, the Winner Foundation asked permission to go in to the park to clean up. Atienza initially agreed, then he withdrew his permission for unspecified reasons.
Seriously, where was the harm in letting people who were volunteering to clean up in the park? Manila was pretty wreaked by the storm and the City Engineering Office was already stretched thin cleaning the roads and damage to the cities infrastructure. You would think they would welcome help. The only reason I can think of that help might be refused would be. . . pettiness.
The man is not the devil incarnate. I actually think he would make a good cabinet secretary – if he was given an appropriate position – such as say with the Department of Public Works and Highways.
He is an architect by training and. . . urban development is something he has a relatively good track record on. Why wasn’t he given the DPWH instead?
In the end, his lack of understanding and. . . pettiness over the Arroceros Park issue does not fill me with hope that the man will be a great caretaker of our natural resources.
Anyway here are links to the Inquirer articles on the subject:
Environmentalists shocked over Atienzas appointment to DENR
From the environmental point of view, the Inquirer is doing the best job of covering this issue. They actually mention the reasons why Atienza is not qualified for the position. Most of the other papers focus on whether or not Department of Energy Secretary Lotilla was fired or not.