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HomeFeatureCOPTAC QUESTIONS THE VATICAN’S APPROVAL

COPTAC QUESTIONS THE VATICAN’S APPROVAL

Kim ‘s Dream Orlan Ravanera


On The Sale of Xavier University to Cebu Landmasters, Inc.

In his response to the letter of Dr. Anselmo Mercado, the President of the Concerned Parents, Teachers, Alumni and Communities (COPTAC), Rev. Father Arturo Sosa, S.J., the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, stated that “the points you presented have been considered and I thank you for sharing them as I appreciate how much you care for the University and the mission of education. Much discussion and deliberation has already been done on this subject, and approval by the Vatican has already been approved. This decision is final.”

This response to the strong opposition of COPTAC on the sale to Cebu Landmasters Inc. (CLI) of the University campus — the 6.3 hectares of the downtown main campus plus the 14 hectares of the developed Manresa campus — is based on the premise that much “discussion and deliberation has already been done”. COPTAC asserts that the discussion has been limited and biased towards those who favor the transaction, that serious objections have not been duly considered, and that those who stand against the deal have been relegated as nuisance objectors whose points of view are unworthy to be heard. The authoritative declaration that the Vatican has approved the deal and that the “decision is final” is in itself a proof that opposition is being muzzled and further objections silenced. Should the decision of the Vatican prevail over the objections of the communities that would be affected by the deal? Consider these two groups opposed to the deal:

First, the Barangay Balulang community. Five barangay kagawads attest that no session was called to discuss and deliberate on the deal between Xavier and CLI. Barangay Balulang is situated at the foot of Manresa ridge. Had a session been held, the kagawads would have expressed that the community is against the proposed development in Manresa because it would worsen the uncontrolled flooding whenever heavy rains occur. The resolution of Barangay Balulang endorsing the project was signed only by the Barangay Secretary and Barangay Chairman, and not by the five kagawads who represent the community.

Second, the concerned alumni, parents, teachers and staff of Xavier. It is commendable that Fr. Sosa recognizes the “care for the University and the mission of education” of this group. But COPTAC disagrees that the points presented have been duly considered. COPTAC has raised several points, but here, we will focus on just two of them.

One, CLI unceremoniously dug up and removed from Manresa the graves of, among others, Fr. William Masterson, the founder of Manresa itself and the many institutions within it, Fr. Francis Madigan, the founder of the Research Institute for Mindanao Culture, and Fr. Francisco Demetrio, the founder of Museo de Oro. To CLI, the removal of the cemetery is a non-issue, it is just part of the process of clearing up the area to make room for the planned development. Those appalled by this action are sentimental people who harken with nostalgia to Xavier’s glorious past. To the concerned alumni, teachers, and staff, this action is symbolic of CLI’s disrespect for Xavier’s past, its foundation, values and mission. How could Xavier move forward when its founders, who we should be grateful for, are considered simply as hindrances to building of a gleaming commercial center for the future? What values underlie such action? Would the envisioned future still adhere to Xavier’s mission of nurturing the students to be “men and women for others”, the objective that the late Bishop James Hayes, S.J., D.D. had in mind when land was donated to the university, and in Jesuits like Fr. Masterson who generously gave his inheritance for Xavier’s expansion?

Two, CLI has not taken serious and adequate considerations for the environmental impact of the development in Manresa. COPTAC asserts that the City Ordinance reclassifying the Manresa as mix use and high-density residential area is defective and did not follow proper procedure for its reclassification. While CLI’s submissions indicate that planned development would have minimal impact on the environment, COPTAC’s analysis found that CLI’s assertions are based on selective reading of environmental studies of the area. Serious warnings about the fragility of the soil and the dangers of constructions of high-rise buildings in the plateau where Manresa is located have been minimized, if not totally ignored.

The agricultural spaces in Manresa contribute to ecological conservation needed by the city for open and wooded areas. With some 200,000 hectares denuded in the uplands of Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon, one-inch of rainfall from there means one-meter high water upon reaching the 200 hectare-urban center.

Ten-inch rainfall means 10 meter-high flood. Somehow the mini-forest in Manresa serves as a “shield.” Thousands will die particularly in Balulang when another Sendong hits the city. Thus, the imperative to protect the mini-forest in Manresa.

Millions of species in our planet are becoming extinct, and the plans for Manresa would contribute to this extinction and to the destruction of the species’ habitat. Has the Vatican not been informed that such transaction will give way to the destruction of the mini-forest in Manresa? An earlier study indicated 40 species of birds identified in the Manresa area would become extinct when mini-forest is demolished. While 40 species may seem a small number, Xavier would lose its moral authority in preaching the protection of earth’s environment if it allows the development that would contribute to their extinction. Xavier should position itself to lead in the mitigation of the effects of climate change that Pope Francis called for in his Encyclical Letter, to heed his appeal to hear the cry of the poor and of the earth!

To sum up, the clear inference from the response that COPTAC received from Fr. Sosa is: these two groups and their concerns do not matter. We get the message that in comparison to those who favor the deal, mainly the rich business and powerful people, these communities are powerless, and thus, not worthy of being heard.

This leaves the concerned alumni to conclude that Xavier has succumbed to the trend of commercialization, an indication that Xavier sees the only path towards the university’s financial stability is to sell its land for commercial purposes. This is reinforced by Cebu Landmasters Inc. Facebook advertisement for the XU Masterson Campus and Manresa Town. Clearly, this constitutes pre-selling that is prohibited before obtaining the License to Sell from DHSUD. The University’s transformation into the image of commercialism runs counter to its very essence. When money becomes the overarching consideration, what happens to the mission of teaching the importance of serving the least of our brethren, in empowering the poor and the oppressed – all for the greater glory of God, which the University has trailblazed all these years, not only in the Philippines but in South East Asia?

All these years, Xavier University has done so much in our world that is under strain as poverty continues to plague communities and families. Climate change threatens our very own survival; conflicts are raging and inequalities are deepening. These crises will only worsen unless we unfetter ourselves from unbridled commercialism, materialism and consumerism brought about by the growth-at-all-cost development strategy.

On Earth Day, April 22, COPTAC invites Xavier University — its students and their parents, the faculty and staff and all its alumni who are for or against the deal between Xavier and CLI – and residents of Cagayan de Oro to stand up for Mother Earth. In this collective action, we hope that Xavier University, Cebu Landmaster Inc and their officials would respond to concerns expressed here, and for the Vatican to reconsider COPTAC’s appeal.

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