Ateneo de Manila University

Ateneo faculty members, students urge vigilance over suspended car park project

Russell Ku

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Ateneo faculty members, students urge vigilance over suspended car park project
Members of the Ateneo community gather in a ‘community kuwentuhan’ to discuss ways to sustain conversation on the North Carpark renovation project

MANILA, Philippines – The suspension of the Ateneo de Manila University’s North Carpark renovation project should not lead to complacency, as those opposed to the move urged continued discussions on the issue.

Ateneo faculty members Remmon Barbaza, Tony La Viña, Arjan Aguirre, and Carmel Abao said this to concerned faculty and student members during a “community kuwentuhan” session on Friday, January 12, where they discussed future action points on the controversial project as students return to campus on Monday, January 15.

Mahalaga ‘yung ating pakikisangkot kasi nakikinig ang administrasyon kasi natigil [ang proyekto]…. Bukas naman sa pag-uusap pero ‘di natin alam kung hanggang saan ‘yung mangyayari,” Barbaza said.

(Our involvement is important as the administration listened – they suspended the project. They are open to dialogue, but we are not sure until where these dialogues would happen.) 

Abao said that the suspension of the project can be an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to engage with each other on the issue and find common ground. 

“At the end of the day…developing something within the campus, developing our land resources, [is] not a management prerogative. It’s a community decision,” she added.

The North Carpark renovation project aims to increase parking slots from 161 to 217 and promises to provide “better pedestrian access, covered walkways, improved drainage, better traffic flow, and a rest area for drivers.” 

More than 1,200 people have signed an open letter calling for the Ateneo administration to stop the project as of Wednesday, January 10. The plan was suspended a day later, on January 11.

Ateneo plans to hold an open forum on January 31 to discuss the project.

“We hope it will be an opportunity for the stakeholders to share their opinions. The administrators will be there to listen to people,” said Leland dela Cruz, Ateneo assistant vice president for social development, environment, and community engagement. 

Dela Cruz added that administration officials are willing to listen to possible options and ideas on the project ahead of the January 31 forum. 

Lack of transparency

During the community session, students and faculty cited the university administration’s lack of transparency on the project.

“Unless they disclose where the finances are coming from, it’s our tuition being used to bulldoze those trees,” said SPARK-Katipunan’s Miguel Angelo Basuel.

Physics professor Joel Maquiling questioned university administrators on how they came up with the decision to remove 82 trees. 

According to an announcement from the Ateneo student government, the Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, the Ateneo Institute of Sustainability had been consulted by the Office of the Vice President of Administration on the matter. 

“If you want to use the invasive trees as an issue or as an excuse for it, it should be backed up by good science…. Who was in the committee that sat to approve the removal of these trees?” Maquiling said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Following the discussion, faculty leaders and student representatives discussed possible action points to sustain their calls to stop the car park renovation project before the January 31 forum. 

Interdisciplinary studies associate professor Jean Tan suggested “no car to school days” to gather data on mobility and the use of private vehicles in the Ateneo campus.

The Sanggunian’s School of Social Sciences representative Emmanuel Frodo Uranza said that the student government plans to release surveys to obtain insights of the Ateneo community on the issues, but sought help from the Ateneo community to support concerned organizations by amplifying their efforts.

Organizers agreed to prepare a position paper to be given to university administrators, as well as to wear blue armbands and tie trees around the North Carpark area with blue ribbons in the coming weeks to sustain the conversation on the issue. – Rappler.com

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Russell Ku

Russell Ku is a digital communications specialist at Rappler who believes in the power of stories to build an empathic society.