METRO Manila's green spaces are shrinking because of unabated development and a ballooning population. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that of its land area of 55,922 hectares, only 12,152 hectares of green space exist in the NCR. Some of the remaining major green spaces in Metro Manila include La Mesa Eco Park in Quezon City and the protected Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.
Only recently, a petition was organized to save the 2.2-hectare Arroceros Forest Park. The "last lung of Manila" is being threatened by the plan of the local government to put up a gym inside the park. In the past, cutting of trees was done when office of Division of City Schools was constructed. There were also attempts before to transform some of the land to commercial use.
The temptation to utilize a high-value piece of land for business purposes is difficult to resist. But LGU's must not yield to this temptation in the name of balanced development. Look at Manhattan in New York. The price of land there is $ 1,773 per square foot or P 992,000 per square meter (www.neighborhoodx.com as of Aug 2018) and yet they have Central Park which expands 341 hectares. According to its website, Central Park is home to more than 20,000 trees and around 230 different species of birds.
Just how important are green spaces? Well, trees provide us with ecological services like Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide absorption, cooling and shade, capture of air pollutants, bird sanctuary, water retention, water filtration and anti-erosion. They reduce the "heat island effect" of urban centers. Moreover, recent studies show that green sceneries have health benefits as well.
A study from the University of Wisconsin has found that green space is more important than money. A poor person living near greenery was even more likely to have a self-reported higher level of peace and happiness than a wealthier person living in an area with less greenery.
Another long-term study by the University of Exeter shows that people are happier when living in urban areas with greater amounts of green space. When compared to living in areas with less green space, the study participants show significantly lower mental distress and significantly higher wellbeing and life satisfaction.
There's also a research from the University of Michigan which concludes that just a twenty-minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce stress hormone cortisol levels. And if the exposure is increased to between 20 and 30 minutes, cortisol levels dropped at their greatest rate.
Here in Pampanga, the development of parks and green spaces are not priorities of LGUs. Probably because we are in the province where there is still significant amount of trees and agricultural lands. Angeles City has Bayanihan Park (formerly Astro Park). Mabalacat City has none but there are several parks inside Clark which are within its territorial jurisdiction like the Parade Ground, Picnic Ground and Aircraft Park. Though small compared to other nature parks, they are still a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle.