University of the Philippines

UP Board of Regents lifts arboretum’s protected status for PGH project

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UP Board of Regents lifts arboretum’s protected status for PGH project

ISKOLAR NG BAYAN. University of the Philippines leads several initiatives to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.

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Several student groups oppose the reclassification, saying it will not only affect the biodiversity of the area but also the families living there who will have to be relocated should the project push through

The beloved University of the Philippines (UP) Arboretum might soon be the site of a public general hospital.

The UP Board of Regents voted to lift the arboretum’s status as a protected forest area and reclassify parts of it as an academic support zone, according to a report by student publication Philippine Collegian on Wednesday, October 28.

The UP Office of the Student Regent reposted the Philippine Collegian’s Facebook post on the news and added that sectoral regents voted against the move, citing “unresolved environmental concerns and calls of the residents of UP Arboretum.”

In a separate post, the Office of the Student Regent said “the PGH project” and the “reclassification of portions of UP Arboretum for construction” are part of the agenda of the Board of Regents’ meeting on Thursday, October 29.

Last September, the state university presented before senators its plan to build a branch of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in the UP Arboretum area of the Diliman campus.

In that Senate committee hearing on the proposed 2021 budget of state colleges and universities, UP President Danilo Concepcion said that the UP-PGH Diliman will have a college of medicine and a cancer research center.

The construction of the UP-PGH Diliman, however, would entail the relocation of 650 informal settler families currently living in the UP Arboretum area before the project starts, according to the UP System’s presentation to the panel.

Several student groups have long voiced their opposition to the construction of the UP-PGH Diliman in the arboretum, including sectoral regents and student councils in UP Diliman.

The UP Diliman Architecture Student Council had emphasized the importance of the arboretum as one of the few remaining natural forests in Metro Manila, noting how the reclassification may only harm the area.

“Projects like these further open the Arboretum to commercial activities, harming our natural forests and endangering its long-time residents. Projects like these are also untimely and counterproductive, given the already existing urgent problems faced by other public hospitals such as the underfunded and overcrowded PGH in Manila,” they said.

Saribuhay UP Diliman, a youth environmental organization, echoed the sentiment, saying that the reclassification would not only affect the biodiversity of the area but also the families living there who would have to be relocated.

The group instead urged the UP System to focus their efforts on improving the PGH before branching out.

“Instead of building a new extension of the hospital, it is imperative that UP PGH in Manila must first be given proper funding and rehabilitated in order to maximize its facilities. The new project cannot be utilized immediately in this pandemic, but an improvement on the state of PGH in Manila will help accommodate more people affected by this pandemic,” Saribuhay UP Diliman suggested.

According to UP, the first phase of building UP-PGH Diliman is estimated to cost P9 billion. The project is considered a priority by the National Economic and Development Authority, which funded a P50-million feasibility study completed in September 2019.

Concepcion said during the Senate hearing that if a private partner is identified, the construction of the UP-PGH Diliman may begin before the end of 2020. – Samantha Bagayas/

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