Friday, December 17, 2010

U.P. Board of Regents Defuses Another Land Commercialization Landmine

By Oz Mendoza

The December 17, 2010 end-of-the-year meeting of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Board of Regents (BOR) was a subdued affair in which the main topic of discussion involved the land-lease issues of U.P. Visayas.

However, the stands of the BOR's sectoral representatives -- Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo, Staff Regent Clodualdo "Buboy" Cabrera, and Student Regent Jacque Eroles was a familiar one, expressing concern over the commercialization of university-owned properties.

The BOR also discussed the fate of U.P. College of Law Dean Marvic Leonen, who has offered his resignation over an alleged instance of plagiarism. However, the BOR has deferred their resolution on the matter to January, 2011. Student Regent Jacque Eroles said that the BOR received so much documentation regarding the Leonen issue, they did not have enough time to go through all of it.

The UP Visayas issue under discussion revolved around the lease of land for use as an on-campus "love nature park." The UP sectoral representatives voiced several objections to the park project. First of all, they are concerned about the proposed park's potential impact on security, given that it would open the UP Visayas campus to a large number of visitors. They are also concerned about the environmental issues involved, and have asked to see an environmental impact report on the project.

Student Regent Jacque Eroles questioned whether the park would actually provide any benefits to U.P. Visayas students. She said that any revenue from the park appears more likely to be funneled to commercial interests, rather than to meeting the needs of the student body. The sectoral representatives agreed that the Visayas park project is another instance of the commercialization of U.P. land that may be in conflict with the spirit of the university charter.

Outgoing Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo called for greater accountability in the evaluation process of projects concerned with generating inconme from UP-owned land tracts. She noted that that the UP Charter provides for the implementation of land leases only under the conditions that the land use does not undermine the academic mission of UP, and that the area leased should be outside the academic core zone of the UP campuses. 

Taguiwalo emphasized that no uniform process exists for the review and approval of projects to lease out UP land. She says that any such process should examine how a project would affect UP's academic mission, and require consultation with the faculty, the student body, and the university community.

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