By Wilnard Bacelonia

OUTDOOR FUN. Kids enjoy a bike ride inside the Magsaysay Park in Davao City on Aug. 16, 2023. The park, where bicycles can be rented at PHP60 per hour, is open from noon until midnight. (PNA photo by Robinson Niñal Jr.)

MANILA – Senator Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Friday said the concept of “public works” should expand to include the development of parks and open spaces, noting that being outdoors promotes physical and mental well-being.

In a news release, Angara said that while space is a problem especially in metropolitan areas, one can be creative in using smaller spaces.

“The goal here is to make our people less confined and to encourage them to go out more, engage in physical activities and interact with people,” he said.

Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, filed last July Senate Bill No. 629 or the proposed Greening Act, which seeks to ensure the sufficient greenery in urban and countryside areas by making it mandatory to plant trees in parks, school grounds, vacant lots and other urbanized sites.

He also filed Senate Bill No. 767 which will reorganize the National Parks Development Committee and rename it as the Public Parks Development Authority to ensure the proper maintenance of public parks and open spaces.

“Putting up more parks, recreational and sports facilities and including open spaces in urban planning will go a long way in improving the physical and mental well-being of our people, particularly those who reside in highly-urbanized areas,” Angara said.

READ: Mental health crisis a rising epidemic in PH – experts

Experts said spending more time in nature enhances a person’s cognitive functions, regulates heart rate and reduces stress.

In the Philippines, Department of Health data shows that at least 3.6 million suffer from mental, neurological and substance use disorders.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education reported that 2,147 students from public schools attempted to commit suicide and 404 of them died during school year 2021-2022.

The Philippine Mental Health Association also noted that currently, there is only less than one mental health worker for every 100,000 Filipinos which makes access to mental health services very limited. (PNA)