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U.P. Arboretum: A Naked Urban Forest

Elmer Nev Valenzuela | Philippines

A resident squeezes herself through cyclone wires erected by the university to contain the influx of settlers

The University of the Philippines Arboretum is the last remaining urban forest in Metro Manila. A repository of endemic and exotic trees, the Arboretum is central to an existing ecosystem, urban biodiversity, and home to informal settlers.

In October of 2020, U.P. Board of Regents reclassified the Arboretum’s status from a Protected Forest Area to “Academic Support Zone” to make way for the construction of Philippine General Hospital within the forest.

Environmental groups, students, and residents denounced the decision. They believe the project would not only imperil Arboretum, but would also displace residents. Worse, it would open the urban forest to commercialization which would result in further encroachments and conversions of this green space.

As a living forest, it is an important element in mitigating local climate change; helps contribute clean air and water; facilitates reduction of urban heat; attenuates flood water; offsets greenhouse gas emissions; ecosystem acts in maintaining low level of diseases; the greens provide positive effect on people for mental health.

In view of trees’ role as an effective climate change solution, the protection and preservation of the Arboretum is crucial.

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