Promises of a New City

Isko Moreno’s first few weeks in office is looking optimistic for local urban tourism

Photo from Manila Public Information Office Facebook Page

It has only been a week since Mayor Isko Moreno has taken his seat as the new mayor of Manila, and changes have already been felt. While his enthusiasm towards the rehabilitation and development of Manila has been received with both optimism and caution, his fervor for boosting the city’s tourism and preserving its heritage comes as a welcome surprise not prioritized by the previous administration. Here’s a list of the promises and actions of the newly elected mayor to help local urban tourism.

1. Preserve heritage sites

Despite being an urban jungle filled with historical treasure, most of Manila’s heritage has crumbled into decay. Mayor Isko Moreno vowed in his inauguration speech that “We will save, we will preserve, we will protect things that remind us of our past for them not to be deleted in our memories. They will not be destroyed.” He also stressed the beauty of these old buildings compared to their glass and concrete modern counterparts, pushing an optimism to revive historic sites like Escolta and Baywalk.

Quiapo Church today. Photo from Mayor Isko Moreno Facebook Page

2. Make Manila a “city of parks”

Also in his inauguration speech, the new mayor revealed that he plans to rebuild the forty-seven parks and playgrounds in Manila, turning it into a “city of parks” in the future. “It is time to reclaim them for our children para sila at tayo ay may pahingahan—pahanginan at palaruan. Huwag po nating hayaan lumaki ang ating mga anak na ang concept ng open space ay ang lobby lamang ng mga malls.” Moreno is adamant about pushing for more open spaces within the city.

3. Save Arroceros Park

While former Mayor Joseph Estrada already had plans to build a gymnasium inside the park, Moreno said he’d block the project, suspecting it would be turned into a cockpit. In a Rappler Talk interview, he emphasized the need for “Manila’s last lung” because it provides fresh air to a vital area in Lawton that experiences heavy foot traffic.

4. Restrict “photobombers” on heritage sites

While we are all familiar with DMCI’s garish Torre de Manila as the famed photobomber of the Rizal Monument, the new mayor will not allow another one to deface any more of Manila’s historical sites. This comes as a response to the reports of plans for a high-rise building that could easily become another photobomber for the Quiapo Church. “Minsan nang nag-alimpuyo ang damdamin ng tao sa mga photobomber issue. Kami nag-iingat. At the same time we are trying to fulfill our commitment in protecting the remaining heritage of the City of Manila.”

5. Reform Manila Zoo

Since January of this year, Manila Zoo was ordered closed to the public for an indefinite period of time by the DENR after it was tagged as one of the major pollutants of Manila Bay. During a visit, Mayor Isko Moreno promised to redevelop and repackage the zoo, to make it environment-, student-, and family-friendly. He also stressed that the zoo will not be sold and privatized, and will continue to run under the local government.

6. Clear streets from obstructions

The new mayor shocked many last week after ordering the clearing operation in some of Manila’s busiest streets. Streets that were once impassable—like Juan Luna because of street vendors—were made free of obstructions, allowing vehicles and pedestrians to pass freely. However, this move received mixed reactions. While commuters were pleased with the clearing operations, street vendors expressed their concern, asking the mayor to provide them with a legal relocation option without having to resort to bribery.

7. Continuous cleanup of the city

On his first day, the new mayor took to the streets of Manila for an inspection and had twenty truckloads of garbage removed from Liwasang Bonifacio in Lawton. On his fifth day, he ordered the cleaning of the sewers of the city, having removed tons of garbage from them.He vowed to clean up Manila, citing that the challenge will come from sustainability. “It seems impossible, but the question now is, can we sustain it? That’s the seemingly impossible job, but we can make the impossible now possible,” he said in a recent statement to the press.

8. Create a “tourism circuit”

Mayor Isko Moreno expressed his interest in creating a “tourism circuit” that will link Intramuros to other popular tourist sites like the National Museum, Rizal Park, Binondo, and etc.  Along with this, the mayor also said that he plans to work with the Intramuros Administration in supporting its urban regeneration action. Also, together with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, Mayor Isko Moreno discussed approaches to boosting tourism and reviving the city’s cultural heritage. TIEZA promised to put new tourist signage which includes Manila’s forty-seven parks, study the renovation of the Philippine relief map at Rizal Park, rebuild the Children’s Park also at Rizal Park, install new lights and place pedestrian lanes in Intramuros, and improve Club Intramuros Golf Course’s lighting.

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Bea Celdran

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Our journey began with an idea to discover what it means to travel the Philippines, beyond the alluring images of sparkling blue waters and powder white sand. We seek to share travel stories to inspire the wide-eyed traveler, moving them deeper into the destination with stunning images and narratives about its sights, tastes, textures, smells, and local life.

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