Philippine senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Davao City congressman Isidro Ungab, and Department of Science and Technology secretary Fortunato de la Peña, representing President Rodrigo Duterte, led the legislative and executive branches of government in pledging their support to the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao’s expansion plan encapsulated in eight resolutions presented at the 44th UP Regional Alumni Institute (RAI) held on 22-23 November 2019 at the Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City.
The theme of the two-day event was “Attaining inclusive and sustainable development in Mindanao through investment in UP Mindanao’s programs.” Davao City mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio sent her warm welcome to the delegates through her representative Davao City planning officer Ivan Cortez. In his message, UP Alumni Association president and alumni regent Reynaldo Laserna recalled the alumni’s efforts towards the establishment of UP Mindanao. In turn, UP president Danilo Concepcion offered his vision for UP Mindanao: “Ano po ba ang balak natin sa Mindanao? Nahulí man ang Mindanao sa pagkakalikha nito―pang anim ata siya na campus na ating naitatag outside Diliman―ay sisiguruhin natin na ang UP Mindanao ay hahabol sa development at baka nga malampasan pa ng UP Mindanao ang ilang pang mga CU [constituent universities] na naunang itinatag sa kanya.” (What do we want for Mindanao? While UP Mindanao might have been created later―the sixth campus established outside Diliman―we will ensure that UP Mindanao will keep abreast with developments and perhaps exceed the other CUs that have been created earlier.)
UP Mindanao chancellor Larry Digal then presented the UP Mindanao’s strategic plan, which focuses on three strategic themes: Molding Learners into Leaders, Transforming Insights into Impacts, and Building a Campus into a Community. These themes are translated into big-ticket projects by the university in response to the needs of Mindanao such as expanded academic offerings and the creation of the College of Human Kinetics, the College of Medicine, and the College of Engineering; strengthening R&D in the two streams of Mindanao arts and cultures and sustainable agri- and biosystems and the application of knowledge generated to public service and intellectual property utilization; and physical expansion of UP Mindanao’s campus into a “green university town” through the completion of the Davao City-UP Sports Complex and the establishment of a botanical garden, museums, and a science and technology park, just to name a few.
Digal said that the establishment of UP Mindanao twenty-four years ago has given the University of the Philippines “the first-mover advantage.” He added, “Today, various universities from the National Capital Region and Luzon are opening campuses here in Mindanao, perhaps lured by the promise of vast opportunities. Hence, UP has been afforded a twenty-five-year head start to establish itself in Mindanao, and we need to take advantage of this opportunity.” However, he notes that the university will be highly dependent on government to spur the university’s expansion to address Mindanao’s diverse needs.
Senator Zubiri stated, “I support your resolutions for a science and technology park, your botanical garden, the college of medicine, and your sustainable agri-biosystems research and development. I will provide additional funding from the Senate and let’s make our dreams happen.”
Congressman Ungab, in turn, said, “I can already foresee that you will achieve your goal with the combined support of able delegates from the legislature, the local and the national executive departments up to the chief executive. It may not be easy to implement your strategic plan for it takes measures of patience, tolerance, and understanding as you go along the five-year plan but it is timely, considering that the budget call for fiscal year 2021 is near approaching. Be in time for the budget call so that you can include in your budget proposals the implementation of programs and projects.”
“Let us compete!” said Secretary de la Peña in his response after receiving the resolutions on behalf of President Duterte from Mr. Sebastian Angliongto, chairman of the UP Mindanao Foundation Inc. (UPMFI). “UP Mindanao should aim to be a comprehensive university. A comprehensive university is highly justified because UP Mindanao has only one campus. The new programs will determine what will be necessary to build and the research to undertake,” he said.
Other invited speakers to the RAI included UPAA director Robert Aranton who talked about the role of the alumni network in the expansion plan, Department of Agriculture undersecretary Rodolfo Vicerra on the initiatives under Secretary William Dar, former presidential adviser on the peace process Atty. Jesus Dureza who shared his insights from that assignment, Department of Tourism undersecretary Arturo Boncato who spoke on tourism and its potential for growth in Mindanao, and National Economic Development Authority assistant secretary Merceditas Sombilla who proposed UP Mindanao’s strengthened participation in the Regional Development Councils.
The speakers were joined by panelists Mindanao Development Authority director Reyzaldy Tan who represented their chairperson Emmanuel Piñol, Davao City planning officer Ivan Cortez who represented Mayor Duterte-Carpio, former UP Los Baños chancellor Dr. Luis Rey Velasco, and UPMFI vice chairperson John Gaisano.
In his closing remarks, UP Regent Angelo Jimenez highlighted the strategic advantages presented by Mindanao’s location and suggested that UP Mindanao direct some attention to the many island nations in Oceania. "If you look at the larger picture, we achieve a strategic view and see that Mindanao is in the heart of Southeast Asia and Oceania with its diplomatic and commercial advantages, which why we need to have a strong presence in education," he said.
Joining the 230 alumni and UP and UPAA officials who attended the RAI were distinguished guests such as Deputy Consul-General Duokun Tang of the People’s Republic of China consulate, DA undersecretary Evelyn Laviña, and Board of Investments governor Napoleon Concepcion.
The Regional Alumni Institute was organized by the UP Mindanao Foundation Inc. (UPMFI) and UP Mindanao in cooperation with the UP Alumni Association (UPAA) national and Davao City chapter.