KEEP DAVAO GREEN: An Open Letter To Councilor Mahipus, the Davao City Council, and Mayor Duterte

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Councilor Mahipus, when I read the stories about how the Davao City Council voted to revise the ordinance to eliminate the required 10% green spaces for developers, your name stood out. In these articles, it says that you gave a privilege speech in behalf of the developers.
I thought your name sounded familiar. And with a quick Google search I saw you were also involved in another environmental controversy where you supported the releasing of balloons in the air because you believed that sea animals are smart enough not to eat balloons.
I know that your opinions and votes are based on what you believe is what your constituency needs. In light of that, I would like to offer my services and refer the services of scientists that I know to serve as consultants the next time you and the City Council decides to draft and vote on local ordinances. Because based on how the council has been voting, it looks like you really need scientists on call.
As a science communicator, I was really shocked why the council voted this way on the green spaces ordinance. We as a country just made a commitment in Paris last year during the COP21 summit to cut back on carbon emissions and support sustainable practices. Just this week it was announced that UNESCO has chosen Davao City to be the pilot site for sustainability science projects. And for the past few years Davao City has been experiencing the worst flooding and heat wave in decades. So it baffles my mind as to why the council decided to vote on cutting back on the creation of green spaces.
A quick Google search would show you numerous studies from all over the world on the benefits of green spaces. Known as the “green space effect”, it has been observed that the presence of trees and plants in mini parks and gardens spread all over cities have numerous positive effects. And we’re not just talking about trees reducing the levels of carbon dioxide and cleaning the air; which should be reason enough. Green spaces also has numerous health, social, and economic benefits for cities.
Let me translate this in terms I know would matter to the council, how it would benefit the city in terms of cost.
First and foremost, the health benefits of green spaces (clean air, fewer allergy attacks, fewer incidence of psychological disorders) would help the city save money on health subsidies. Clean air means fewer asthma attacks. More people who exercise means reduced incidences of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. And people who live near parks and trees are seen to have better psychological outcome, reducing the burden on the city’s mental health service facilities.
And every grade school student can tell you the environmental benefits of trees. Green spaces can act as catch basins for torrential rains. They also serve as natural windbreakers for typhoon force winds. This can save the city millions on disaster response, management, repair of damaged infrastructure, and social support for those displaces.
Green spaces also encourages socialization, which would make it easier for the city to gather people for information dissemination. Think of how much easier and more comfortable it would be to hold a political soiree in a park covered with trees instead of a concrete heatsink.
Last but now the least, green spaces actually helps raise property values. I’ve seen in the reports that property developers claim that the 10% green spaces is a waste of money. What they didn’t know is that if they made an effort to develop these green spaces into working parks, they would have been able to increase the value of the entire subdivision overall instead of just using that 10% to add more residential units.
I know it’s too late for you and the council to do anything. But I am confident that you and the council can still do SOMETHING.
I understand that property developers are important to the city’s economy. But I know it’s clear to you that the needs of 1.5 million souls living in this fair city far outweighs the needs of a few corporations. Please think of the needs of your constituents, which contributes to the local economy more in terms of taxes than a few developers. The needs of the actual voters who live here should matter more, not the needs of businesses who just came here to do business.
Please Mayor Duterte, veto the bill as soon as possible. If that’s not possible, hold a session to find ways to undo the damage and reinstate the 10% green spaces. I know we in the science community would be more than happy to help you create ordinances that are feasible and beneficial for everyone. Let’s bring international recognition to the country once more by being a successful UNESCO project. Let us be a model for cities worldwide and prove once and for all that #LifeIsHere.
I know it’s too much to ask you to change your mind. But I know if it’s for the benefit of your constituents, you can influence Mayor Duterte and the rest of the city council to do what’s best for Davao.
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The author, Julia Sta. Romana is a Science and Technology writer, DAKILA's Program Director for the Digital Activism Program, and a proud Davaoeño.
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Please sign the petition below to show Mayor Duterte and the Davao City council that you support 10% green spaces in Davao.

I strongly oppose the elimination of the 10% green space rule for property developers. I believe that removing green spaces will have a negative effect on the environment, health, culture, and economic development of Davao City.

I urge Councilor Mahipus and the Davao City council to reconsider and revoke their actions.

I urge Mayor Duterte to veto the bill and reinstate the 10% green spaces provision. 

I urge Davaoeños everywhere and all those who love Davao to join me in this call.

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