On September 21, 1977, President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 1200 known as the Philippine Five-Year Development Plan (1978-1982), which provided among others, that Region VI would be the site of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) with emphasis on fisheries and marine sciences. Funds will come from a World Bank loan with a counterpart from the Philippine Government. EDPITAF was the implementing arm of the project. Fifteen sites in Region VI were surveyed in the search of a suitable site for the UPV campus. The first choice was Cabano, Jordan in the Guimaras Island. However, because of the isolation of Guimaras from the Island of Panay, the next site chosen was the Tigbauan-Guimbal area by virtue of its proximity to the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC). Because of strong negative reactions from the residents in the locale, Miag-ao was considered as an alternative site after Assemblyman Salvador B. Britanico convinced Dr. Gerardo Sicat, then Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and members of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines.
In 1978, the municipal officials of Miag-ao conducted a series of dialogues and consultations with the people, together with UP officials. This was done to determine the impact of the presence of an institution like UP in the town. Mixed reactions were gathered from the residents but the majority believed that Miag-ao will progress faster if it will be the site of UP in the Visayas. Being the mayor then, I initiated a research of my own by studying the revised five-year development plan of UPV and visiting UP campuses especially UP Los Baņos. Convinced that the project will give more benefits than disadvantages to the municipality, the latter made a more intensive effort to persuade the UP system that Miag-ao would be the best site for its new campus. Then Assemblyman Salvador B. Britanico worked out the mechanics in persuading higher authorities including President Marcos, UP President Dr. Emmanuel Soriano and the assemblymen of Western Visayas about the merits of choosing Miag-ao as the site of the university. Three areas were considered for the proposed location that will start from the seashore and extend towards the interior landscape. These sites were: (1) before the poblacion (Going towards Iloilo City), (2) the poblacion proper and (3) after the poblacion (going west towards San Joaquin).
The site voted for was the area after the poblacion. The present location was chosen because of the UP Los Baņos experience. During my tour of Los Baņos, I observed that the town proper was left behind the terms of development. Progress was concentrated in the area where UP Los Baņos was built. Our vision was we wanted to make sure that the town proper must also be developed simultaneously with the development of UPV.
On September 6, 1979, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between me and UP President Emmanuel Soriano. Among the salient features of the agreement was the negotiation of the acquisition cost of land to be purchased, compensation given to tenants and remuneration for the cost of the land's produce such as trees and crops. An appraisal committee was formed representing the municipality, the university and the affected landowners to determine the fair market value of the land. Representatives of the municipality were: Cornelio Nacanaynay, Municipal Treasurer of Miag-ao; Juan Figura, Municipal Treasurer of San Joaquin and Vice Mayor Ramon Flores of Miag-ao. Actual land acquisition began in 1979. At that time, the market value of the land was higher that those of Pototan, Pavia and San Miguel. UPV agreed to provide adequate relocation site who will be relocated. Full land title was promised to residential lots or home lots which formed part of the land acquired by the University. In cases of residents whose houses are standing on lots which do not belong to them, a home lot of the same area will be leased to them without the right to sublease. The University, in cooperation with the Municipality, will help provide the services needed with the actual transfer of the relocated parties. The University will also pay for the cost of relocation and compensation for dwellings based on certain terms and conditions to be determined by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). If the land purchased is not yet needed by UPV, the land owners have a maximum of five years to benefit from the land and its improvements. If the University will decide to discontinue with the UPV project, the heirs and assignees of the various lots acquired by the UPV or the municipality, shall have the right of first refusal for the purchase of the said lot. The University will also embark on a continuing community relations program which has the following objectives: (1) to keep the community adequately informed of the University's goals, policies, activities and probllems; (2) to make UPV aware of the aspirations, resources and needs of the community; and (3) to collaborate with the community in promoting the community's well-being.
The ground breaking ceremony, which was done with much preparation happened on February 29, 1980. UP President Emmanuel Soriano and the UP Board of Regents, together with Assemblyman Salvador B. Britanico and the rest of the Assemblymen of Region VI, Iloilo Governor Conrado Norada, Governor Saldivar of Antique and other dignitaries, received a warm welcome from the people of Miag-ao. The guests were very impressed with the 40 motorcycle riding men in blazing uniforms that escorted their caravans from Iloilo City to Miag-ao. Three "Drum and Bugle Corp" in multi-colored uniforms and schoolchildren lining the streets waving small, paper-made Philippine flags, awaited the guests in the Miag-ao town proper. The ground breaking ceremony was proceeded by a traditional "babaylan" rite to appease the spirit of Mt. Barangatitip.
The year 1980 was a crucial one. There were problems connected with the development of the UPV campus. These problems cropped up and ballooned into gigantic proportions when construction of buildings began. An economic slump caused by peso devaluation, the increase in prices of construction materials and the trickling funds coming from the government share, all caused tremendous delays in the construction. Several strong typhoons also took place that caused the collapse of bridges along the highway from Iloilo to Miag-ao. Opposition coming from some sectors in Barangay Bacauan and problems in moving families to the relocation centers also plagued the project. On top of all these, landowners became impatient because the delay in payments for their lands. They were also dismayed to find out that lots bought by UPV was far below the prevailing market prices. This was because the price of land in Miag-ao went up when it became public knowledge that the town was officially chosen as the site for UPV. To accommodate and satisfy the landowners, the municipal and UP officials negotiated with the Provincial's Assessor's Office in Iloilo for readjustment in the prices of lots. After several negotiations, the Provincial Assessor's Office approved the schedule of land pricing which took effect in 1983. This included the cost of improvements of lands. But also in the same year, the government imposed a 20% capital gains tax which again affected the cost of land. Prior to these, the Sangguniang Bayan passed Resolution No. 22, series of 1980 authorizing the Municipal Mayor to make representations to President Marcos and to the Representatives of Region VI requesting exemption of payment of capital gains tax. This, however, was not considered favorably. In addition, some tenants and landowners complained that they were not given priority in employment at UPV. The Mayor appealed to the contractors and the UPV officials to implement the Memorandum of Agreement considering the hiring of workers and employees.
It is a sad note that up to the present, titles of the homelots at the relocation center have not been distributed (due to bureaucratic delays in land titling procedures) and development of the site seems not attended to by UP. To make matters worse, all these problems were magnified by the press that on one occasion, the Mayor thought of filing a case against a newspaper. The present local administration of Mayor Julieta N. Flores, on the other hand, plans to help in the development of Relocation Center I, especially in addressing the lack of a potable water source. Another problematic issue was that of a privately owned beach resort that was to be purchased by UP. Villa Marina Beach Resort could have been included in the UPV site had it not been for a group of young people (Kilometraje 40) who protested against such purchase. With all these obstacles that beset the birth of the new campus, the will of the visionaries who shared the dream of having UP in the Visayas, prevailed over.
In conclusion to this accounting on how UP came to Miag-ao, I would like to give credit to Assemblyman Salvador B. Britanico for initiating the move to locate UPV in Miag-ao and assuring the funding thereof, to the late Justice Ramon B. Britanico who provided legal advise and the invaluable support during critical times. Recognition is also due to former UPV Chancellor Dr. Dionisia A. Rola, Dr. Rogelio O. Juliano, Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, Dr. Flor J. Lacanilao and the present Chancellor, Dr. Arsenio S. Camacho; as well as Architect Honorato G. Paloma, Felicidad H. Jesena, Rosemarie Trivilegio and countless others who shared the vision and made into reality, the building of UP in the Visayas in Miag-ao.
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