THE CAMPUS has again been the scene of breathless repairs and renovations as the administration takes advantage of the summer vacation to construct physical and infrastructure improvements.

But the long hot summer has seen an odd construction. Snaking through several buildings are huge red steel pipes that somehow mar the dignity of the beautiful edifices of the campus. What are they? They are pipes for fire hydrants that the UST administration seem to have suddenly acquired a taste for.

It turns out that UST, along with other institutions and establishments, has been found to have violated certain rules and regulations of the fire prevention code by Manila City Hall.

Manila fire department chief Engr. Pedro Labuguen, Jr. said that fire alarms in some buildings of the University are either non-operative, unfixed or nowhere.

The latest inspection reported that most of UST’s buildings have no luminous exit signs, no hallway emergency lighting systems, no fire hose, and no fire hydrant (dry hydrant and sprinklers).

The wet type fire hydrant is considered the most efficient system. But it is costly as it requires a building to have an overhead or gravity tank to supply water.

Vice-Rector for Finance Fr. Roberto Pinto, O.P. said most of UST’s buildings were constructed during an era when there was still no fire prevention code. He said UST is making up for lost time by installing fire-prevention systems.

The newly constructed Thomas Aquinas Research Complex is the only University building with sprinklers while the soon to rise seven-story Beato Angelico (College of Fine Arts and Design) building will have fire-fighting equipment.

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To compensate for the lack of upgraded fire-fighting devices, the UST Buildings and Grounds (B & G) is installing new and replacing defective fire extinguishers in strategic areas of several University buildings, including the Main building.

The B & G is also installing dry hydrants in UST’s congested buildings.

The St. Raymund’s (Arts and Letters and Commerce and Accountancy) building is already equipped with a dry hydrant. The installation of dry hydrants at Miguel Benavides (UST Pay High), Main, San Martin de Porres (Nursing and Rehabilitation Sciences), and Roque Ruaño (Architecture, Engineering, and Institute of Technological Courses) is yet to be finished.

Luminous signs are being installed. Automatic lighting system in case of power failure is already installed in most of UST’s buildings.

Fr. Pinto, chair of the University disaster preparedness committee requested the B & G to provide the buildings a cabinet-type safety equipment storage (with axe, flashlight, helmet, jacket, etc.) for emergency purposes.

The University will also conduct fire drills in coordination with the UST Red Cross.

Budget slash

Aside from complying with fire safety rules, the University will continue major constructions and several renovations amid a tightened budget situation.

Despite a budget slash, some construction projects have been accomplished ahead of the deadline. Others are to be completed when classes open.

The new concrete and open drainage system at Quezon Drive (from UST Health Service to Dapitan Exit) is almost finished while the overhead gravity tanks at the Father’s Residence, St. Raymund and San Martin de Porres buildings are expected to be finished in two to three months.

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Fr. Pinto said the installation of gravity tanks would stabilize the water supply in the University’s more congested buildings. They serve as alternative sources of water to the cistern tanks.

The renovation of the Arts and Letters faculty room and the mezzanine in the College of Commerce are also being completed.

The Roque Ruaño computer laboratory and the Engineering dean’s office are also under renovation.

An audio-visual room is also being constructed at the Education High School building.

The Santissimo Rosario Parish’s roof and interiors are being repainted.

The former offices of the Social Research Center (SRC) and Office for Research Development (ORD) (both are now at TARC) at the Main building are also being rebuilt to be occupied by the Office for Planning and Development and Office for Community Services (old SRC office) and Office for Student Admission (old SRC office).

Satisfaction and concerns

College of Science Dean Gloria Bernas expressed satisfaction at the renovation of the General and Analytical Chemistry laboratory. She would haved loved to see the renovation of other facilities, but she said there are budget constraints.

Assistant Dean Helena Cabrera of the College of Commerce and Accountancy said they are pleased with the improved facilities and recent renovations.

Fr. Pinto traced the delays to the fact that a single contractor works on two to three projects at a time. At present, there are eight contractors that handle the University constructions and renovations.

Students, meanwhile, expressed concern over the University’s fire code violations.

“I did not expect that UST is a fire code violator. The administration should ensure the students’ safety by installing fire-prevention equipment like smoke detectors and fire exits rather than simply renovating the buildings,” BS Computer Science sophomore Ma. Criselda Reolope said.

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AB Sociology sophomore Jennifer Papio suggested that the old wood furnishings of most UST buildings be replaced with glass and steel.

Fr. Pinto assured the students their safety is uppermost in the administration’s mind.

“I always tell the contractors that kung ano ang gagawin ninyo is for the students, for the faculty, hindi naman sa amin (administration). UST goes beyond business transactions and they (contractors) should also look at the University as their home,” Fr. Pinto said. John Carlo B. Bautista, Wilson A. Pelingen, and M. L. C. Corpuz, with a report from Billy Joe I. Allardo

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