Tuesday, March 29, 2011

U.P. Integrated School alumni are questioning the basic premises for tearing down U.P.I.S. to give way to yet another Ayala mall.

By Chanda Shahani

Alumni of the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) are planning to petition U.P. President Alfredo E. Pascual for an audience and a possible public hearing to validate how carefully studied the plan to transfer UPIS to the current Narra Residence Hall in U.P. Diliman was; considering that the deal brokered by the past Roman administration and approved by a majority of the Board of Regents in favor of AyalaLand, Inc. had no public hearing which was in violation of U.P.'s own charter (R.A. 9500).
According to two Facebook pages made up of UPIS alumni, "Goodbye U.P. High" and "Let's Go to the Mall," many questions remained unanswered and so far there has been no sufficient dialogue yet with the new U.P. administration, headed by U.P. President Alfredo E. Pascual.

Rowena Bernardo, a UPIS alumni and founder of "Let's Go to the Mall," posted in "Goodbye U.P. High,"

"Dear Fellow Alumni -This is a small update on planned petition to Pascual for a public hearing on the UPIS deal. "

"We have a group represented by Conyap Longid who is making a position paper for a dialogue with Pascual."

"The position paper will be ready on April 1st. The petition though independently launched will have to look into the arguments of the position paper as well as all points gathered from different parties including any and all points that you would like to point out here"

"In essence, I believe that the decision on UPIS does not only affect UPIS but UP as a whole and a conscious query on where we are veering our education. I have enclosed here a link of a UK based online petition website as an example of the functionalities that the online petition I aspire to launch shortly after April 1."

Another UPIS alumnus,Eugene Lirio Tecson, said "I am from Batch 1992, a senior researcher (CSI & CPDRI) a rural development worker (CSI), a political scientist/political economist, and an international studies graduate student from UP Diliman and I would like to share my position, despite the very limited factual information that I have on the issue."

"I am against the transfer of the UPIS school building not because I am sentimental about it but because of the wrong reasons for which it is being transferred. From what I've gathered, the main arguments for the transfer of UPIS is: 1. To generate income for the UP System from the lease payment from Ayala Corp. and 2. To address the safety of the high school students from having to cross a much wider Katipunan Avenue. For me, these reasons are not sufficient grounds to transfer UPIS."

"UPIS as part of a national university should never resort to rely on private investments to sustain its operations. Since it is a national university, a status that is even higher than a state university, the national government is duty bound to provide public investments to sustain its operations. If UP is now considering the entry of private investments, as it already had, then it might as well be fully privatized. One should distinguish the implications of private funds from the UPIS alumni and the private funds that come from private corporations. Funds from alumni associations are donations meant to improve UPIS and have no strings attached or conditionalities. On the other hand, funds coming from private corporations would necessarily have conditionalities since they are profit and competition-driven. That is why these corporations need to set up infrastructure where they can do business during the period that they are leasing the UP property."

"The safety of the students is a flimsier reason. While I don't have a background in architecture/engineering/construction. I can only imagine that it would cost more to build new school buildings than build overpasses to address the safety of the students."

"As a concerned alumni member of UPIS, this is where I am coming from. These ideas do not necessarily represent the ideas of my other batchmates in Batch 1992 but I am hoping we can still debate from a scholarly and scientific standpoint on the merits of the proposed transfer of UPIS."

Meantime, here is a brief summary of the details of the proposed takeover by AyalaLand, Inc. of the current UPIS site along Katipunan Avenue according to "Goodbye U.P. High":

  • The transfer of UPIS to the unused Narra Residence Hall  was an unsolicited proposal made by AyalaLand, Inc. to former U.P. President. Emerlinda R. Roman. The Board of Regents rejected it at first because it was not subjected to public bidding.
  • The concept and transfer was eventually approved during the very last BOR meeting attended by then President Roman. 
  • The new UP President Alfredo E. Pascual has ordered a review of the agreement: Just like the Ayala Tecno-hub in Commonwealth Avenue, the arrangement is a 50 year lease with guaranteed first option. U.P. only gets a percentage of the gross profit from the mall-BPO-condo complex operations. The initial payment will be PhP 200 million in orderto start the ball rolling. 
  • All the other details are nebulous. Even the new principal does not know of the plans or timetable for this project. 
Former President Roman's last BOR meeting as U.P. President was on January 27, 2011 where the AyalaLand, Inc.  proposal was approved by a majority of the BOR with some regents, such as Student Regent Jacque Eroles dissenting on the grounds that there needed to be public hearings on the matter, in accordance with R.A. 9500. Outgoing President Roman subsequently turned over the authority of her office to incoming U.P. President Alfredo E. Pascual on February 10, 2011.

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary)

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