July 28, 2015, 4:08p.m. – THOMASIANS hit back at President Benigno Aquino III for alluding to UST’s opposition to a government “flood catchment” project that would have involved digging a huge tank under the UST Open Field, a National Cultural Treasure.

Aquino, in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday at the House of Representatives, said sacrifices were needed, but a “big university” had rejected a proposal to construct a big flood drain to mitigate perennial flooding in Manila.

“Panawagan ko nga po, makiambag sana tayong lahat, at maging handang magsakripisyo. Halimbawa: Para matugunan ang madalas na pagbaha sa Maynila, isinulong natin ang pagpapagawa ng catchment area, pero tumutol po dito ang isang malaking unibersidad. May mga gusali daw kasi silang maapektuhan ng gagawing proyekto,” the President said before lawmakers at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

Aquino did not name the university, but Thomasians were quick to connect the dots.

In 2013, the Varsitarian reported that the government was eyeing the University as a flood control basin. However,  the UST administration rejected the government’s proposal to dig out a huge “retarding tank,” which would have stored floodwaters  under UST’s open spaces including the Open Field. The Open Field, Main Building, Central Seminary, and Arch of the Centuries were declared National Cultural Treasures by the government in 2010, a year ahead of UST’s quadricentennial.

UST, whose 21-hectare campus is the largest in Manila and is private property, cited security concerns and the disruption of daily activities on campus in opposing the plan.

Thomasians were quick to react on the Internet and social media, hitting Aquino for disregarding the University’s cultural heritage.

Aquino: 'Big university' opposed Manila flood-control project

Blogger fernandezjrp pointed out on WordPress that UST had made several sacrifices such as recycling floodwater, and did not complain when the Department of Public Works and Highways raised by more than three meters all four roads surrounding the campus: España, Lacson, Dapitan, and Padre Noval. This made flooding in UST and surrounding areas worse. “If it was the decision of UST to not put an orinola underneath its grounds, its prerogative should be respected. Why does UST have to take the blame for poor urban planning and management?”

Magnolia Neilson: “It’s the law that preserves national heritage sites just like UST. Walang sense of historic value ng mga buildings. Bakit `di sya magpagawa ng housing project para sa mga mahihirap doon sa looban ng Ateneo High School. Ang lawak ng lupa roon at hindi naman national heritage site `yun.”

Julie Anne Quita on Facebook said: “Hundred-year-old structures are worth protecting and for sure there’s a way to stop flooding without ruining century-old buildings. UST Engineering students and grads are brilliant and can find a way. Instead of blaming and pointing fingers, it’s better to tap into the potential of the university’s talents and produce a win-win situation.”

Ricky Arby Gonzalez: “Pati ba naman UST gusto din pawasak? Lahat na lang ba ng mga cultural heritage natin kailangan isakripisyo dahil sa dahilan ng pag-unlad, pagbabago o mga proyekto ng gobyerno?”

Philip Magistrado Jamilla: “Because aside from historical preservation, these buildings are still used and are functional. Oo, maapektuhan `yung buildings inside UST, but will the benefit outweigh the negative effects? Consider the classes that will be disrupted and the buildings than can be damaged by the project (and adversely affect educational activities in UST). PNoy really likes putting one-sided blames EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.”

Aquino's last Sona:

On Twitter, Nina Canizares (@MoninaMoninaaa) said: “Heritage. Culture. History. Does that mean anything to you President Aquino? Shame on you.”

Anti-Aquino protest

Thomasian members of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights joined the protest staged by militant groups at Commonwealth Avenue during Aquino’s final SONA.

For Political Science major Miguel Lopez, the commercialization of education worsened during the Aquino administration. “Ang Aquino administration ay naging parte ng patuloy na deregulation ng pagtaas ng tuition sa daan-daang colleges and universities around the Philippines kasama na nga ang UST. Very evident naman `to kasi alam naman natin na tumaas ulit ang tuition natin,” Lopez said in an interview.

Uziel Guthrie Naguit, a Philosophy major, claimed the K to 12 program was the President’s way of promoting a commercialized educational system in the country. “Ang nangyayari kasi nagsasabwatan ang gobyerno at mga kapitalista para ipagkait ang edukasyon sa mga kabataan,” Naguit said.

Lopez said K to 12 would only develop “students that are ready to be exported after high school.”

Aquino highlighted the K to 12 program during his SONA, which he said would help make Filipino students globally competitive.

“Nagpatupad tayo ng K to 12 dahil hindi praktikal ang pagsisiksik ng kaalaman sa 10-year basic education cycle. Tandaan lang po ninyo noong tayo’y nag-umpisa, tatatlo na lang tayong bansa na may 10-year basic education sa buong mundo,” he said. “Kung ang lumang kalakaran sa edukasyon ay maihahalintulad sa manggang kinalburo, ngayon, sinisiguro nating hinog ang kakayahan ng mga estudyante na magpanday ng sariling kinabukasan,” Aquino said.

Aquino touts K to 12 program in final SONA

Naguit urged Thomasians to be involved in national issues. “Bilang mga Thomasian, nararapat lamang na magkaroon tayo ng tinig dahil hindi lamang tayong mga estudyante ang maaapektuhan kundi ang ating mga kapwa Pilipino.”

Militant groups Gabriela, Anakbayan, Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Katribu were among those that joined the protest which drew an estimated 20,000 people. Robert A. Vergara, Jr. and Alhex Adrea Peralta


  1. […] Aquino was criticized for stubbornly asserting the project in blatant disregard to the University’s cultural heritage and student welfare. The said project involves digging the UST Open Field, an area declared as National Cultural Treasure, to make a huge tank that will catch the floodwater from nearby areas. The said project may also disrupt the educational institution’s operations and may pose danger to student safety. […]


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