Our Statement on the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex

Manila residents deserve affordable sports facilities and public open spaces, even as a new national sports complex will be built in Clark. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex should remain as a sports complex, and should be dedicated to the people of Manila.

Rizal Memorial Field sustained minimal damage during World War II. It was used by the US Army as a camp and recreation facilities immediately after the war.

It must be emphasized that RMSC is one of the last surviving pre-war structures in the city, and it has borne witness to the scourge of war and some of the grandest events in our history. It remains an important landmark not only for the City of Manila – but for the thousands of athletes who have called it home for many generations. It deserves to be preserved as a sports facility and heritage landmark, dedicated to the people of Manila.

Although the proposed preservation of the facade is a necessary first step, it is merely a token gesture to conservation. Conservation requires understanding why the structure is important to the people, and how that importance can be communicated to future generations.

Aerial view of Rizal Memorial Field

The open spaces and sports fields are integral to the identity of the space as a venue for sports and events. Adaptive reuse can be applied, but only to improve its original intent. Proposals to develop the property must include keeping all the public open spaces, especially the football and baseball fields. Commercial activities can be built into the facility without diminishing open spaces where people can engage in sports, participate in events and concerts, and enjoy themselves.

We agree that the City of Manila should pursue a path of redevelopment for the city, but it should also keep in mind that there are other public values it must protect and nurture – a healthy environment and the preservation of our culture and history must go hand in hand with economic development.

Proposed redevelopment of the Harrison Park District and Rizal Memorial Sports Complex by Landscape Architect Paulo G. Alcazaren (PGA)

Redesigning the Harrison District to generate fresh investment precisely anchored around a revitalized Rizal Memorial Sports Complex and expanded park spaces in that area, will create a more balanced environment and progressive economy for the people of the city. Building high-rise buildings and malls in that district will only aggravate the traffic and the stress on public infrastructure, from water and power, to sewage and drainage, in the area.

Original plan for Harrison Park (PGA)

Historically, the Harrison District itself was intended as a park to manage flooding in Malate while creating a civic space to anchor a pleasant and integrated community. Forgetting the historical function of an area leads precisely to the problems we see in that area today.

Manila needs open and green spaces, not more concrete slabs, because climate experts warn that the Metro Manila is now a heat island because of limited green and open spaces. This results in stronger downpours and deeper floods, and even small cyclones, which happened just a few months ago in the city.

Harrison Park and Rizal Memorial Field from the 1933 Zoning Plan for Manila by Juan Arellano (PGA)

Finally, preserving the facilities as public sports venues is a strategy that supports President Duterte’s fight against drugs. Encouraging young people to devote time to sports is a step towards a drug-free Manila.

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