Vatican okays controversial Xavier-Ateneo campus sale plan

The Vatican has given the Jesuit-run Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan the green light to sell more than half of its main campus in Cagayan de Oro City.

The plan, seen as a move that would literally change the landscape of downtown Cagayan de Oro, started a firestorm in 2019 in the city that has remained populated by old families taken aback by the Jesuit announcement.

Many residents and Xavier alumni who see the university campus as an important part of Cagayan de Oro's history and heritage strongly opposed the move initiated during the watch of Father Roberto Yap, now president of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU).

The old Cagayan de Misamis, the city's name before it became a chartered city, was practically built around what started in 1933 as the Ateneo de Cagayan for schoolboys.

'Campus of the future'

Xavier's plan is to sell some four of its six-hectare campus and another 14 of its 63-hectare agricultural property to build a "campus of the future" within a Bonifacio Global City-like commercial and lifestyle district in a new growth area in uptown Cagayan de Oro.

Real estate brokers said the four hectares of the prime property alone could easily generate at least P3 billion for the university that, even before the pandemic, was reportedly bleeding. 

The university has been facing stiff competition posed by several schools offering cheaper education. It also invested heavily in an old hospital established by nuns that found itself being challenged by newer and modern hospitals.

Xavier, however, plans to retain about two hectares of its present campus built right smack in what is considered the heart of Cagayan de Oro.

Mayor Oscar Moreno has hailed the plan, saying it would "redefine" Cagayan de Oro.

'Good news'

In a statement, Xavier said the Vatican go-ahead would allow the expansion of its post-pandemic learning spaces and opportunities.

The university's president, Father Mars Tan, said the Vatican approval of the plan "is good news for those who truly value education and formation of our young people, and I am excited and happy because this will fulfill Xavier-Ateneo's dream to give the best Jesuit education possible in the region and in Mindanao."

He said it would also enable the university to provide "first-class education" and "first-class building and campus design."

Xavier quoted part of the Vatican's Letter of Approval: "The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, having attentively examined the documents submitted, grants the request in conformity with the petition."

It said Xavier's petition passed the Father Provincial of the Jesuits and the Superior General of the Jesuits in Rome who then endorsed the plan to the Vatican.

If plans don't miscarry, the project would be carried out in phases beginning in the second quarter of 2022, announced Xavier.

The ambitious project includes the construction of a new campus on a 21-hectare property in Manresa, adjacent to a planned 14.3-hectare township, and the relocation of its College of Agriculture facilities to another Xavier property in the eastern village of Bugo.

Xavier would undertake the multibillion-peso project in partnership with renowned property developer Cebu Landmasters Incorporated. – Rappler.com