Ateneo de Manila University

Ateneo pushes through with car park renovation project amid backlash

Lance Arevada

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Ateneo pushes through with car park renovation project amid backlash

SUSTAINABLE CAMPUS SPACES NOW. Student and faculty members walk through the renovation site of the North Carpark on December 27, 2023 to personally observe the project’s progress before its suspension on January 11, 2024.

Charles Perez/Matanglawin

Ateneo's top official says only mahogany and gmelina trees will be cut down to make way for the car park's renovation, and they will be replaced by native trees in non-buildable areas of the campus

MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) has decided to push through with its plans to upgrade its North Carpark inside the Loyola Heights campus, with changes in its plan to avoid cutting down native trees, despite backlash from its community.

“We shall proceed with the North Carpark Upgrade Project in order to enhance safety and improve drainage in the area. There will be modifications to the original plan so that no native trees will be cut down. The University shall adjust the design of the car park to save trees,” university president Fr. Roberto Yap, SJ said in a memorandum released on Monday, March 4.

Under the North Carpark project, which was first announced in December 2023, a total of 82 trees – mostly considered as invasive species – will be cut to upgrade facilities, improve pedestrian access, and increase parking slots, but the plan sparked outcry among Ateneans.

Yap said on Monday that only the mahogany and gmelina trees, comprising 62 out of 82 affected trees according to university officials, will be cut down for the project in accordance with ADMU’s sustainability guidelines.

“Apart from providing seedlings to DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) as required by law for each tree to be removed in the parking area, the University will replace the mahogany and gmelina trees by planting native trees in the non-buildable areas of the campus,” he added.

Following adjustments in its plans, Yap said that activities for the car park upgrade project will now continue on March 11.

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Transparency woes

The university president also announced the creation of a “Campus Mobility Forum,” composed of officials, faculty, and students, to help the administration craft “innovative solutions and sustainable campus mobility strategies” in Ateneo.

“The forum conveners will document ideas exchanged and prepare a report outlining a vision for mobility on campus between now and 2030. The Forum will consider, among others, policies and practices that will promote innovative strategies that will improve campus mobility consistent with long-term sustainability,” Yap said.

This latest move comes weeks after students, faculty members, and alumni who opposed the car park renovation project urged for greater transparency in the university’s decision-making processes during a forum mounted by campus officials.

Yap suspended the project in January to pave the way for consultations on the planned upgrade.

He also apologized for the lack of dialogues prior to the announcement of the project.

Since late December, over 1,200 students, faculty members, and alumni have signed an open letter to Yap, calling for the suspension of the car park project.

“Amidst the climate and transportation crisis happening in our country and all over the world, we cannot continue preaching sustainability and climate justice while we continue to undertake projects that only contribute to the worsening of the problem,” the letter read. –

Lance Arevada is an Aries Rufo Journalism Fellow for 2023-2024

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