By NITZ ARANCON
CEBU Landmasters Inc. (CLI) proposed some P3.3 billion to acquire four hectares of Xavier University’s present six-hectare campus, a former chairman of the university’s board of trustees has disclosed.
Engr. Elpidio Paras, who now serves as a Xavier consultant, said the P3.3-billion offer would cover for the first phase of the ambitious development project, and allow the university to build its “Campus of the Future” within its Manresa property.
The proposed project is seen to change the landscape of downtown and uptown Cagayan de Oro. Mayor Oscar Moreno called it a “game changer.”
Paras said three developers, including CLI and the Ayala group, submitted proposals to the Jesuit-owned university.
CLI, he said, had the best offer because aside from developing four hectares of the present campus, the firm would also acquire and develop 14 hectares of the university’s Manresa property.
Paras said, “Lakip sa ilang offer nga dili pa nila ipapahawa ang mga estudyante sa Corrales campus mintras tanto nga dili pa mahuman ang development sa Manresa.”
Paras said the search for an investor started some three years ago because university officials saw the need to build a new campus away from downtown Cagayan de Oro.
But the idea to move uptown started years ago, when Ateneo de Manila University president Jose Ramon Villarin was Xavier’s head.
Paras revealed in a Facebook post: “The idea of moving some of the colleges to the Manresa property had actually started around a decade or so ago during Fr. Jett Villarin’s tenure as President of XU.”
He said it was also the time when he chaired Xavier’s board of trustees.
That early, according to Paras, Xavier commissioned an architectural firm to draw a masterplan for a new campus in uptown Cagayan de Oro.
“The [board of trustees] at that time, already recognised the growing congestion in the downtown campus and proposed for a study be undertaken for this purpose,” he said.
Paras however said there was hindrance at the time: lack of financial resources for such a huge undertaking.
He said when Fr. Roberto Yap took over as Xavier’s president, the board “expressly told him to hold off on new structures at the downtown campus, but instead put available resources on improving the Pueblo Grade School and High School campuses due to increasing student population there.”
Paras added: “My feel is that the time to reconsider moving most of the colleges to Manresa has arrived and to leverage a portion of the downtown property as well as part of Manresa to build a new, modern, spacious, environmentally friendly and conducive campus there, is justified and a practical one.
“Fr. Masterson would be thrilled if he were still alive today.”
Fr. William Masterson was an American Jesuit priest who founded Xavier’s College of Agriculture, including the university’s Manresa farm complex.
In a press statement, Xavier said the envisaged campus is proposed to be named the “Masterson Campus” in honor of Masterson who saw the Manresa property’s potentials as early as the 1960s.
Xavier, in the same statement, said it plans to develop the new campus for XU higher education colleges on 21 of its 63-hectare uptown Cagayan de Oro property while retaining a 25-hectare Manresa forest reserve.
Xavier’s proposal is to sell some four hectares of its six-hectare property in the Divisoria area and some 14 of its 63-hectare Manresa property to CLI to turn them into a central business district and a university township, respectively. It said the proceeds would be used to finance the construction of what it calls “Campus of the Future.”
If plans don’t miscarry, Xavier plans to transfer its College of Agriculture facilities from Manresa to the university’s 104-hectare “El Gaucho” property in Barangay Puerto.
The new campus project, if approved by Jesuit authorities, is expected to be undertaken within an eight- to 10-year period.
Xavier quoted a March 2019 letter sent by Society of Jesus’ Superior General Fr. Arturo Sosa about the plan: “In general, the plan seems reasonable, and some initial legwork has been done. Thus, I would be open to this alienation and eventual transfer. 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…. My hope is that this would make this project even stronger, with greater and more solid support from major stakeholders.”