Thursday, June 3, 2010

The U.P. Board of Regents turns down Ayala Land, Inc.'s current proposal to take over U.P. Integrated School, favors a development plan first

(Source: Facebook page of No to Ayala Land,
Inc.'s proposal to take over UPIS)

By Chanda Shahani

The University of the Philippines (U.P.) Board of Regents (BOR) has turned down Ayala Land, Inc.'s (ALI) unsolicited proposal to commercialize the U.P. Integrated School (UPIS) along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City in favor of U.P.'s first coming out with a development plan for the UPIS site.

According to Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo, the BOR met on June 2 and discussed ALI's proposal as part of the agenda. During the meeting, the BOR instructed the UP Administration to come up with a development plan for the current UPIS site and call for a public bidding once this is approved. It turned down the unsolicited proposal of Ayala Land Inc. as not being in the best in the best interests of UP.

The Diliman Diary has previously covered this issue, where it was revealed that U.P. and therefore, the Filipino taxpayer may not necessarily have gotten the best possible deal under ALI's unsolicited proposal (See Diliman Diary, May 28 and May 26, 2010) since market forces or more competition were not given the best chance to operate. Regent Taguiwalo's revelation that the BOR's insistence that there be a development plan first before the private sector is allowed to enter the fray under competitive bidding conditions in the UPIS case effectively creates a precedent for the future development of other properties within the U.P. System.

Under Republic Act 9500 or the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008, U.P. President Emerlinda R. Roman is not only the chief academic officer of the University but also its chief executive officer. As such, it is her administration that will bear the chief responsibility to come out with a workable development plan for UPIS that faitfully follows the spirit and letter of R.A. 9500.

Section 22 of R.A. 9500 (, entitled "Land Grants and Other Real Properties of the University" states that:
  • Income derived from the development of all land grants and real properties, such as the UPIS property shall be used to further the end of the national university, as may be decided by the BOR;
  • The Board may plan, design, approve and/or cause the implementation of land leases: Provided, That such mechanisms and arrangements shall sustain and protect the environment in accordance with law, and be exclusive of the academic core zone of the campuses of the University of the Philippines: Provided, further, that such mechanisms and arrangements shall not conflict with the academic mission of the national university;
  • The Board may approve the implementation of joint ventures: Provided, That in the event real properties of the national university are involved, only the income derived by the University from the use of the real properties shall be the subject of its participation or obligation in the joint ventures: Provided, further, That no joint venture shall result in the alienation of the real properties of the national university; and
  • Any plan to generate revenues and other sources from land grants and other real properties entrusted to the national university shall be consistent with the academic mission and orientation of the national university as well as protect it from undue influence and control of commercial interests: Provided, That such programs, projects or mechanisms shall be approved by the Board subject to a transparent and democratic process of consultation with the constituents of the national university: Provided, further, That funds generated from such programs, projects or mechanisms shall not be meant to replace, in part or in whole, the annual appropriations provided by the national government to the national university.
A very likely key point person to be tasked by President Roman to participate in the development plan formulation tasked to the U.P. Administration by the BOR is U.P. College of Architecture Assistant Professor Armin B. Sathou, who currently holds the rank of Vice President for Development for the U.P. System.

A detailed interview  given by Vice President Sarthou and posted on the U.P. website, and entitled, "U.P. Forum Roundtable on the University in the next 20 years" (July-August, 2009, gives a glimpse of some of the elements of such a possible development plan. The interview, quoting Sarthou extensively, and given from a trained architect's perspective, shows his point of view, which could be incorporated in the development plan and which the BOR may either adopt, reject or even modify:
  • Circulation. The campus, already known for its pleasant and green ambience, will now be characterized by even wider and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and walkways, connecting the different nodes and clusters within the campus, cutting through landscaped lushness, with more defined spaces for reflection and meditation. Vehicular access inside the campus will be limited to those with infirmities, and walking will be the norm. Parking structures will be located at the outer edges of the campus to encourage walking and the use of the public transportation system, which by then will be characterized by electric-powered transport—battery-powered ikot jeepneys drawing their power from solar panels and strategically-located charging centers, or perhaps a well laid-out monorail system conveniently connecting all areas of the campus.
  • Housing. Some of the single detached housing developments on campus will have to give way to low-rise (three-storey) residential buildings, in the process eliminating altogether the long waiting lists for faculty and staff housing on campus. The new developments will be less dense than the present walk-ups, and will contain amenities that will enhance the quality of life of its residents, including localized sports and recreation facilities and multi-functional clubhouses. These projects will be made possible either though the University’s own financing and management, or in collaboration with private developers.
  • Resource Generation. The University will, with the help of government, the alumni and the private sector, successfully convert hitherto unproductive real estate into resource-generating assets, decreasing dependence upon government subsidy to just under 25%.of its funding requirements. Assets such as the Sierra Madre and Mindanao land grants will by then be fully productive, with agroforest plantations in some portions to fortify University finances, and rich biodiversity in other areas to serve the University’s teaching and research functions. In all CUs, assets closer to campus will be further developed with the construction of more academic buildings and support facilities, housing for faculty, staff and students, and science and technology centers.
(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary).

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