By: Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
On A day like this, at the beginning of what threatens to be a long hot summer, Metro Manila’s residents search desperately for outdoor places where they can spread a mat, read a book, take a nap, or laze around with the children in the cool shade of big trees. Alas, outside of the UP Diliman campus which becomes a public park when it closes its tree-lined oval to vehicular traffic on Sundays, there are hardly any other accessible green parks left. The green sheltering metropolis is long gone.
Free time is nowadays inevitably captured by any of the gigantic air-conditioned shopping malls that dot the city. One is almost tempted to say that the natural environment has been deliberately degraded in order to force the city’s inhabitants to find refuge in the enclosed world of the shopping mall.
There is no conspiracy here, I am sure. It is just what happens when space is indiscriminately privatized, public officials forget their responsibilities, and owners fail to see beyond the narrow prism of private profit. Nowhere is this stark reality more visible than in the ongoing struggle between Baguio residents who are trying to save the few remaining pine trees of their city and those who want to uproot them to make way for more parking space for SM shoppers.
The political geographer, Edward Soja, sums it all up in the term “spatial injustice.” Soja argues that justice has a spatial dimension that is not as well recognized as legal justice or economic justice. Spatial injustice is evident in the way the geography of the city is configured to favor its wealthy residents, often to the detriment of its poor communities.