CONSTRUCTION of UST’s extension campus in General Santos City in central Mindanao will start this summer, UST Rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P. said.

“One of the reasons why we have to establish the initial structures is that the University’s permit to convert the agricultural land to an institutional area will expire by January 2008,” Arceo told the Varsitarian. “If we don’t put up a structure by that time, we have to apply for an extension of the permit which could delay our expansion plans.”

Arceo said that he had formed a “Gen-San focus group,” which will oversee the establishment of an agricultural research center and a pastoral education program for lay catechists.

The group is led by Executive Vice-Rector Fr. Juan Ponce, O.P. Members include Alberto Laurito, assistant to the rector for planning and development; director Ernesto Gonzales of the Social Research Center; and Dr. Pompe Sta. Cruz of the International Rice Research Institute.

Arceo said that the group will focus first on establishing the agricultural research center for the production and development of virgin coconut oil.

“The land has about 6,000 coconut trees so it would be best to use this natural resource for research and development,” Arceo said.

He added that the University had already purchased equipment from Germany for the extraction of the virgin coconut oil from the coconut trees.

The planned center would also conduct research on herbal medicine, Father Arceo said.

Another plan, according to the Father Rector, is to put up a research facility that would aid in the harvest and development of tuna, which is also abundant in General Santos City.

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Meanwhile, UST would offer religion and theology courses for lay catechists this summer as part of its pastoral education program for the General Santos City campus.

“One of the University’s goals is to increase the Dominican presence which is relatively weak there (in Mindanao),” Arceo said.

After constructing the initial structures, the University will put up different colleges and even facilities for faculty housing.

“There are many options available, but we still have to think which college and which programs are suitable to the area,” Arceo said. “Right now, we are more concerned with putting up the initial structures.”

The 80-hectare Gen-San extension campus was bought by UST in 2003. Other UST extension campuses are in Sta. Rosa, Laguna and in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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