5-hectare UP land eyed for Senate siteBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A piece of land measuring about five hectares owned by The University of the Philippines (UP) is being eyed as a possible new home for the Senate.
This property is located behind the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA, formerly Philcoa) building near the Arboretum and the Petron gasoline station on Commonwealth Avenue.
UP officials said the property should serve the needs of the Senate, which supposedly requires at least five hectares of land.
“The talks are still preliminary. Once the Senate committee decides, then they will come back to UP to present their proposal,” said Prospero de Vera, the university’s vice president for public affairs.
De Vera said UP officials have had one formal meeting with a group of senators to discuss the proposed transfer of the Senate to a portion of the 493-hectare Diliman campus.
But there have been a few informal discussions on the subject during deliberations on the budget of the state university, he said.
Various suggestions have been made for a possible location—one of them another UP property where the Asian Institute of Tourism (AIT) and the and the Philippine Social Science Center (PSSC) now stand—but it is deemed that the property behind the PCA might just be the most feasible.
“It would be also strategic if the Senate moves there, because it may serve as a boundary for the UP property, given the informal settlers encroaching on our land,” De Vera said.
And should plans to construct a Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line push through, the nearest station to the proposed Senate building would be the PCA station, he noted.
Another university official, Danilo Arao, the head of the UP System Information Office, said the tentative site will not include the Arboretum, a protected forested area.
Arao noted, however, that the proposed site behind the PCA is occupied by 1,000 squatters.
But De Vera said this is a concern that should be addressed by the Senate when it does decide to move to UP Diliman.
De Vera also clarified that the AIT and PSSC site, also located along Commonwealth Avenue, was not being considered as an option.
He explained that the area of the property, aside from being less than the five hectares that the Senate requires, is too small and thus not a feasible location.
Besides, the AIT property is already being leased to developer Ayala Land Inc. (ALI), he said.
“From the legal perspective, UP cannot lease out land which is already covered by an existing lease,” De Vera said.
Under its 2008 Charter, the state university cannot sell any of its land or property. It can only lease, as in the case of ALI and other government agencies holding office on UP land.
Other government offices housed at the Diliman campus are the Commission on Higher Education, the Commission on Human Rights, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, and the Quezon City Police District headquarters.
No details of the proposal have been discussed, but De Vera said the Senate may be able to lease the land from UP at a cheaper rate as it is assumed the property will not be used for commercial purposes.
The Senate has to make a proposal to be elevated to the Board of Regents, the university’s highest decision-making body, before any transfer plans are approved.
“The proposal will come from the Senate. The ball is in their court,” De Vera said.
Student regent Cleve Arguelles, who earlier opposed
the Senate transfer to UP, said consultations will be made with UP constituents, including students, residents and faculty, among others.
“We were assured that this will be coursed through the proper channels. But of course we would like to see the proposal first,” he said.