Text by Vinni Gandia
A total of 430 tenants in the Molave, Yakal and Kamia Residence Halls will be forced to move out by the end of the year, due to year-long renovations at the start of the next semester.
The reconstruction of the said dormitories, which were allotted 77, 82, and 95 million pesos by the university administration, respectively, will be handled by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The Office of Student Housing (OSH) began addressing the issue by allowing undergraduates to stay at dormitories for graduate students only, such as Sanggumay and Ipil, at the start of this semester, according to Officer-in-Charge Dr. Shirley Guevara.
OSH also plans to increase the room capacity of Kamagong Residence Hall from three to four tenants per room, and will decrease the monthly rental fee from P2500 to P2250 next semester.
“Tapos siguradong madadagdagan pa ang mga available slots dahil sa mga mag-gagraduate,” Guevara said.
Transferring to the Kamagong dormitory raised concerns for 2-year Molave resident Jaycen Aligway, since the monthly fee of Kamagong is significantly more expensive.
“Mahihirapan ang mga taga-Molave na lilipat kasi sa amin, P250-290 lang ‘yung bayad. Ikumpara mo naman ‘yun sa over P2000 na fee sa Kamagong,” Aligway said.
Guevara also added that a survey was conducted in the three dormitories in October assessing the preferred dorm relocations of tenants.
Only 137 residents were able to respond because others were already looking for affordable living spaces off-campus, while the rest were not informed of the survey.
“Parang ‘yon [ the survey ] kasi ang application namin sa dorm by next sem. At saka ‘yung hindi naman sumagot sa survey, mag-aacquire na lang ng application form for the dorms next sem sa OSH,” Arjay Leserio of the Yakal House Council said.
Because the Kamagong dormitory still houses graduate students and faculty members, only the 93 dormers who answered the survey will be accommodated.
Aside from the renovations, the OSH and UP Foundation are also focused on the completion of repairs of the International Center, which is targeted to have a 150-resident capacity, prioritizing foreign students and distributing the remaining slots to local undergraduates.
After the said renovations, the administration is looking to build a 7-storey co-educational dormitory with two wings beside the Sanggumay Residence Hall along Roces St.
Even though there is still no target date, the project has already been allotted P200 million, and will be handled by the BF Construction Company, owned by Marikina City 1st District Rep. Bayani Fernando.
Renovated container vans were also initially planned to be provided by the UP System for alternative housing, according to Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jerwin Agpaoa. However, after realizing the difficulty and cost of remodeling and transferring the container vans, the UP System backed out on the project late this year.
“Now, we’re really hoping we could finalize it with the UP System kasi if they say they won’t be willing to purchase, then Diliman will source out the funds,” Agpaoa said.
Agpaoa added that another feasible project is acquiring prefabricated housing, whose sections are built at the manufacturer’s facility then transferred and assembled at a home site.
As of now, there are no specified target completion dates for the International Center and the implementation of the projects mentioned by Agpaoa.
The dormitory renovations will be supervised by the Dormitory Oversight Committee which is composed of six members appointed by Chancellor Michael Tan.
Members of this committee include Office of the Campus Architect Director Arch. Enrico Tabafunda, Campus Maintenance Office Acting Director Arch. James Christopher Buno, and Guevara.
Current dormitory situation
This year, a total of 2,731 students reside in the 12 campus dormitories, most of which are over five decades old, with deteriorating facilities and plumbing issues, such as clogged drains, low water pressure, and leaky pipes .
USC Basic Student Services Head Marian Joyce Dacquel said that plumbing issues are not isolated cases, since this has been the situation for other dorms, such as the Sampaguita Residence Hall where she stays.
According to Guevara, this led the DPWH to offer to repair the dorms, and the OSH pushing through with the renovations next year, prioritizing the Molave, Yakal, and Kamia Residence Halls.
Because of budget constraints, the project does not include the rehabilitation of their basements which hold rooms that have been made uninhabitable by past floods.
However, in 2017, there was also P200 million allotted for new UP dormitories, but was not utilized, according to a report by the Commision on Audit.
Furthermore, due to their one-semester residency, the tenants of Yakal chose to elect just one council officer instead of the usual four, while Kamia and Molave dormers decided not to elect local student councils who could advocate for more efficient solutions regarding their relocation.
The University Student Council (USC) sought to address the residents’ problems through their annual Dormustahan which was conducted this year in all residence halls except Bahay Atleta from September to October.
“Sira-sira ang mga shower at nagbabara ang flush ng mga toilets kaya napipilitan ang mga dormer na gumamit ng tabo at timba,” Dacquel said.
Student Regent Ivy Joy Taroma pointed out that these repair issues and the reliance of the UP administration on DPWH funding may be a result of budget cuts by the government.
Taroma is part of the Philippine Federation of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) Student Leaders who examined the 2019 national budget and found that the 2018 budget of SUCs will decrease by P542.9 million next year.
A total of 63 out of 114 schools are also set to sustain budget cuts for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), amounting to P583.7 million.
Call for adequate student housing
Despite their conditions, Dacquel observed that slots of UP dormitories are annually sought by thousands of students, especially those who live in far provinces because of their relatively affordable fees compared to room spaces outside the campus.
Victoria Uy from Bacoor City, Cavite pays just a monthly fee of P250 at the Kamia Residence Hall. She will be forced to pay more expensive fees at other campus dorms or boarding houses in Krus na Ligas or Area 2 once renovations begin next month.
“Pero kung makakuha man ako ng slot, feeling ko papatulan ko rin naman dahil wala nang choice,” Uy said.
Alyzza Joy Albay, a freshman who was not accepted to a UP dormitory this semester, hopes to apply again next school year because of the daily struggles of commuting from Pasig City to Diliman.
“Extra pagod since naglalakad, nag-ooverpass and unahan at gitgitan pa kapag walang masakyan ‘pag rush hour. Sayang din oras dahil pwede na sanang itulog o i-acads ‘yung travel time ko everyday,” Albay said.
Guevara recognized the declining economic conditions of the country as the main challenge in accommodating most, if not all UP students.
“It is hard to make [housing] a right dahil limited ang spaces sa dorms. We could also consider student housing a privilege dahil minemaintain natin na mababa ang dorm fees, compared sa matataas na singil sa labas, despite the inflation situation in the country,” Guevara added.
Nonetheless, Dacquel asserted that the USC will conduct continuous dialogue with the OSH and UP administration in order to address the issue of livable spaces which she believes is a right.
“Student right ang magkaroon ng liveable space sa campus, lalo na ng mga nakatira sa malalayong lugar na umaasang may murang matitirhan habang nag-aaral,” Dacquel said.
Taroma also emphasized that the right to free education is not limited to school fees.
“Bukod pa dun, may mga ibang bagay, tulad ng student housing, na kailangan ng estudyante para ma-fulfill ang right niya sa education,” Taroma added.
The Student Regent, who is a native of North Cotabato, almost did not get to study at UP Diliman because she was not accepted to a cheaper UP dormitory during her freshman year in 2015.
“Para sa maraming estudyante, essential ang student housing para makapagpatuloy ng pag-aaral. Sa mga instances na hindi ka makakapasok sa eskwelahan dahil wala kang matitirhan, nade-deprive ka ng iyong karapatan,” Taroma said. TNP
Photo by Vinni Gandia