Top officials of the Jesuit university in Cagayan de Oro clarified over the weekend that nothing has been set in stone about the planned transfer of its main campus to Uptown Cagayan de Oro.
In a series of consultations with various stakeholders over the weekend, Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) clarified that a number of requisites have to be complied with before the institution can proceed with detailed plans for the proposal.
“Xavier University is governed by two systems of laws,” said Fr. Roberto C. Yap, S.J., Xavier Ateneo president during his presentation to the alumni last July 20.
“As a Filipino non-stock, non-profit educational foundation, we are governed by Civil Law sanctioning our Board of Trustees as the final approving authority, and they have consented to proceed with the project.”
“However, we are also governed by Canon Law and Jesuit Law as a Jesuit Institute of Learning so we require the permission of the Father General to proceed,” Yap noted.
Rev. Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J. as the Superior General of the Society of Jesus (the official title of the leader of the Society of Jesus, the Roman Catholic religious order better known as the Jesuits), is generally addressed as Father General.
In a letter to Xavier Ateneo dated 26 March 2019, Sosa was positive about the project’s outlook.
“In general, the plan seems reasonable, and some initial legwork has been done. Thus, I would be open to this alienation and eventual transfer,” Sosa wrote.
“However, given the magnitude of this undertaking, involving such an enormous amount of money, I ask that more in-depth and extensive discernment and consultation be done before approving this request.”
“Dialogue with the faculty, staff, students, and parents of XU, and even representatives from the alumni would be important. Should serious questions be raised in this process, they should likewise be addressed. I would like to see that the objections and alternative solutions are sufficiently addressed,” Sosa added.
“My hope is that this would make this project even stronger, with greater and more solid support from major stakeholders.”
So far, XU has conducted consultations with parents of grade school, junior and senior high school students, college students and their leaders, faculty, deans and chairs, college alumni and had good discussions and sharing.
Most of the participants have emerged from the consultations, excited and enthusiastic about the proposed project.
Another consultation was held Saturday afternoon with the College of Agriculture alumni (Aggies) focused more on the proposed transfer of the college to El Gaucho in Upper Puerto. Another is scheduled on July 22 with local and national government and civic leaders.
“The consultations aim to present the proposed project, raise concerns, address issues, and generate possible solutions,” Yap said. “The consultations will ensure a forward-looking and comprehensive master plan.”
The President’s Council and XU Board of Trustees have been working to flesh out the master plan for its Campus of the Future during the past three years, primarily to examine how the university’s real estate assets could be used in the service of its vision and mission as a Jesuit educational institution.
After considering several national real-estate players, the Board chose property developer Cebu Landmasters Inc. (CLI) as its partner in developing the proposals for this new campus project. CLI was recently recognized as the Best Developer in the Philippines by Property Guru Philippines Property Awards.
However, Yap said the consultations only started this year since Xavier Ateneo has a non-disclosure agreement with CLI.
“We could not go around and discuss it publicly when it was still in the conceptual planning stage,” he explained.
As a publicly listed company, CLI was mandated to disclose the proposed project to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) this July when the stakeholders' consultations began.
CLI's disclosure immediately led to a social media buzz about the project’s possible impacts on the downtown campus, Manresa campus and the College of Agriculture.
“This is not all for Xavier. Primarily it will be for Xavier’s Campus of the Future but we also have a commitment to the city,” Yap stressed.
“XU is always in the service of Cagayan de Oro and this should lead to further infrastructure development which would uplift the city,” he added.
XU is considering moving most of its operations out from its 6-hectare main campus near Plaza Divisoria to provide a better learning environment for its college students. The current campus is deemed congested; too noisy from outside traffic and from activities in the covered courts and football field; and at risk of flooding.
The planned campus of the future in its Manresa Campus will feature well-designed school buildings and administration facilities catering to several academic and technical courses such as Agriculture, Arts & Sciences, Business & Management, Computer Studies, Education, Engineering, and Nursing. The campus will also be adaptable to future developments in academic disciplines and technological innovations.
Main master plan elements include an abundance of open spaces and greeneries – a main plaza, interconnected courtyards, sports facilities, an amphitheater, and a University Forum which will incorporate a museum, theatre, and gallery.
The state-of-the-art Manresa Town Campus of the Future will provide innovative spaces for learning, pioneering research, artistic expression, whole-person formation and experiencing excellence.
The new main campus will retain the 25-hectare forest reserve in Manresa. It will be near XU’s 12-hectare basic education campus at Pueblo de Oro, allowing integration of campuses for greater efficiency and modernization.
The College of Agriculture facilities including its demonstration farms, workshops, field laboratories at Manresa are to be moved and upgraded to XU’s 104-hectare property in Bugo/Upper Puerto known as El Gaucho.
To finance the construction of the new campus, the proposed Master Plan envisions the sale of around 14 of the 63-hectare Manresa property to CLI.
CLI plans to develop a township project (working name Manresa Town) which will integrate complementary commercial, residential, office, and leisure uses.
XU is also proposing to sell around 4 of its 6-hectare property in Divisoria that CLI plans to develop into downtown CDO’s Central Business District (working name Xavier City), with XU’s Church of the Immaculate Conception at its heart.
“We are not leaving Divisoria,” Yap stressed. “Xavier Ateneo will continue to be present in downtown Divisoria with the University Church and a redesigned campus for the XU School of Medicine, College of Law and most of its graduate programs.”
Should the new campus project be approved by the Jesuit authorities, it is expected to be developed over an 8- to 10- year period. The new campus is proposed to be named Masterson Campus in honor of the late Jesuit visionary Fr. William Masterson SJ who foresaw the potential of Manresa in the 1960s.
This proposed master plan for a Campus of the Future is in line with the Jesuit university’s strategic plan to be the best university in Mindanao and among the best in the Philippines especially as Xavier Ateneo moves forward to celebrating its centennial in 2033, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. ∎