UP on Sustainable Cities and Communities

The University of the Philippines, the country’s national university, is entrusted with numerous heritage and landmark structures as well as vast, open green spaces that belong not only to the academic community but also to the greater Philippine society.

Given this heavy responsibility, the UP system has committed itself to keeping these spaces and structures safe, resilient, sustainable, and inclusive or accessible to those who need them.

These include cultural heritage buildings; places of worships and health facilities including the Philippine General Hospital which played a significant role during the COVID-19 pandemic; natural and cultural museums; and marine and forest reserves located in its 19 campuses, research areas, and stewardship properties spread across the country.

Keeping it Green: UP Diliman’s Biodiverse and Sustainable Campus

The University of the Philippines Diliman, the largest among the 19 campuses of the UP System in terms of population and academic programs, is a vibrant academic community occupying a total of 493 hectares of reserved land and land development. “From the very start, the plan for UP Diliman was to be green, to be a university-in-a-park setting,” said UP Vice President for Public Affairs Elena E. Pernia. “All developments that followed over the years were largely in keeping with the original green intent,” she added.

The UP Lagooon in UP Diliman, Quezon City. Photo by Jonathan Madrid, UP MPRO.


At the center of the vibrant Diliman campus is the Academic Core, a 20-hectare botanical reserve that features landmarks of historical and recreational value. The two landmarks are the Quezon Hall which houses the offices of the UP System and UP Diliman, and the Gonzalez Hall which houses the UP Main Library.

The Academic Core or Academic Oval also features UP’s iconic Oblation Plaza, the Amphitheater, the Lagoon, and the Sunken Garden, a 5-hectare multipurpose sunken grass expanse where various field games, recreational activities and outdoor concerts are held.

These spaces not only serve as free-to-use outdoor venues for social interaction, political and cultural expression, and health and wellness activities for the public such as meditation and physical activities, they also provide fresh air and visual relief that benefit not just the academic community but the general public as well.

To help preserve and nurture UP DIliman’s landmarks and open sapces, UP Diliman published its updated Environmental Sustainability Policy document which outlines its commitment to the preservation, conservation and revitalization of its environment, and the reduction of its overall carbon footprint.

The action policy, being promoted to its faculty, staff, and students as well as the larger UP Diliman Community, is guided by these principles: human rights-based, participatory, non-discriminatory, gender-fair, social justice, and ecological balance.

The expansive UP Diliman campus is also blessed with a rich ecosystem consisting of decades-old trees and hundreds of species of flora and fauna. To preserve and protect this green oasis, the Biodiversity Management Handbook, a compendium of UP Diliman’s policies on biodiversity management and protection in the campus, was published.

In his Foreword for the book, UP President Danilo L. Concepcion explained: “This Handbook will serve as a reference and guide for building administrators and the various units in UP Diliman, offering concrete, practical and specific guidelines for planning and management, for harmonizing the construction and infrastructure development on campus with the natural environment, for the use of space and mobility within the campus, and for waste management—all based on the ethics of biodiversity management and the principles of harmony, respect for all forms of life, and shared responsibility.”

And because UP is also the university of the people, the impact of adhering to the handbook’s guidelines is felt even by those outside the immediate UP DIliman community.

“What we are able to accomplish now not only benefits those on campus, but also the larger community who trusts UP Diliman to provide that bit of solace under the trees, as they come to commune with nature or go on that weekly bike ride, jog, walk to escape the bustle of the city,” said UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo.

Keeping it Green: UP Diliman’s Sustainable Mobility Practice

The e-tricycle charging station in UP Diliman, Quezon City.

The University of the Philippines is committed to promoting sustainable transport and mobility while protecting the environment and the health of the commuting public.

This commitment is expressed primarily in UP DIliman, the System’s largest constituent unit with more than 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students – accounting for roughly 40 percent of UP’s total student population – who need to move within the 493-hectare campus.

One environment-friendly solution came from the students themselves – the free bike-sharing on campus proposed and managed by UP Bike Share, a non-profit advocacy group of undergraduate students. UP Bike Share now provides free use of 30 red-and-white painted bikes for some 50 dormitory students.

To ensure the safety of bike riders, UP Diliman assigned bike lanes around the Academic Oval with speed limit reminders.

To maintain good air quality within the campus and to reduce the carbon footprint of employees who regularly or frequently move from one office to another as part of their work, UP Diliman purchased electric tricycle and cars and built charging stations within the campus.

UP’s Cultural Heritage

The University of the Philippines preserves and protects historical campus grounds and national heritage facilities in its care, as provided under the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. Each of the eight constituent units of the University house expertly-curated museums and galleries.

The role of museums in producing and shaping knowledge by providing insight into human history is well-acknowledged in both the popular and academic spheres. University museums — particularly the museums and galleries maintained by UP — are exceptionally important for being public spaces for experiential and self-directed learning. Without exception, all the museums of the UP actively develop integrative and interdisciplinary projects, renovate and rehabilitate collections, and collaborate with local, national, and global communities.

UP Diliman, for example, is home to both natural and cultural museums expertly curated by the colleges that manage them. Among these notable museums are the Costume Museum of the College of Home Economics where a collection of more than a thousand pieces of rare and authentic historic Filipino costume and accessories are on display, the UP College of Music Museum of Musical Instruments featuring a collection of ethnic musical instruments from the Philippines and other countries, and the Filipiniana Research Center’s Bulwagan ng Dangal (Hall of Honor) which houses UP’s own art collection.

The Diliman campus also houses museums of natural heritage such as the Jose V. Santos Herbarium, a collection of some 20,000 specimens, mainly vascular plants, including a collection of grass specimens by Santos, fern specimens by Presciliano Zamora, and a general collection by Leonardo Co, plant taxonomist and one of the greatest ethnobiologists in the country; the UP Biology Invertebrate Museum, which has a collection of 1,279 Arthropods, 582 Cnidarians, 602 Echinoderms and 2,819 Mollusks; and the UP NIGS-UPGAA Geology Museum, which has a comprehensive display of types of minerals, rocks and fossils.

The facade of the UP Vargas Museum in UP Diliman, with a statue of Rajah Sulayman by Anastacio Caedo in the foreground. Photo by Misael Bacani, UP MPRO.


UP Diliman is also proud to host the art collection of Jorge B. Vargas, displayed at the three-story building that bears his name. The collection of the country’s first Executive Secretary under Pres. Manuel L. Quezon includes works by late 19th century artists such as Lorenzo Guerrero, Simon Flores, Juan Luna and Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo and those from the 1930s and 1940s, most notably Fabian de la Rosa and Fernando Amorsolo.

Other notable museums of the UP System are in UP Manila, the Museum of a History of Ideas which honors the University’s pivotal role in the emergent nation; in UPLB, Museum of Natural History (See next subtopic, “UP’s Natural Heritage Stewardship” ; in UPVisayas, Museum of Natural Sciences and Museum of Art and Cultural Heritage; in UP Mindanao, the Mindanao Food Museum; at the UP Open University, the Sinag Gallery; in UP Baguio, the Museo Kordilyera; and in UP Cebu, the Jose T. Joya Gallery and Museum of Art and Culture.

The University also avidly supports initiatives that promote and enrich Filipino culture by encouraging performances such as those of the UP Symphony Orchestra and providing venues for cultural expression such as the Ishmael Bernal Gallery, a flexible space for artists where they can hold multimedia exhibits and art installations. The indoor space is also perfect for intimate film screenings and cultural nights.

The UP Symphony Orchestra in one of their pre-pandemic live performances in UP Diliman, Quezon City. Photo by Misael Bacani, UP MPRO.


The UP System also invests in period renovation of its heritage buildings, structures and art pieces as part of efforts to preserve them for future generations of Filipinos to enjoy. It embarks on this delicate work with the guidance and approval of the National Historical Commission, thus ensuring that green spaces in campuses, for example, are revitalized to make them more welcoming to the public and outdoor art installations are brought back to their former glory.

The University’s renovation initiatives are guided by the following principles outlined in its 2012 UP System Master Development Plan: a) lower the ecological footprint of the campus; b) avoid damages to or the demolition of heritage structures and their surrounding habitat; and d) create incentives for the conservation of historic and cultural heritage properties. UP’s Master Plan also encourages the dissemination of heritage preservation guidelines and codes to ensure community participation.

UP’s Natural Heritage Stewardship

LIke Diliman, UP Los Banos is a conscientious steward of the country’s natural heritage and reserved green spaces under its jurisdiction, including the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve (MMFR).

MMFR, an ASEAN Heritage Park located within 65 km of Metro Manila, features two recreational sites for the public: the Makiling Botanic Gardens and the Mariang Makiling Trail. Activities allowed in the reserve include hiking, leisure walk, jogging, and birdwatching. The popular spot also allows picnics, photoshoots, film shootings and other social events.

The forest reserve and heritage park, which spans a total of 4,244 hectares straddling parts of the Los Baños, Bay and Calamba City in the province of Laguna and Sto. Tomas in the province of Batangas, is managed by the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems (MCME), an academic institution under the College of Forestry and Natural Resources of UPLB.

MCME is committed to generating and strengthening the scientific knowledge for the conservation and sustainable development of tropical mountain ecosystems in partnership with mountain communities. MCME’s mission is to advance knowledge and promote sustainable development of Mt. Makiling and other tropical mountain ecosystems through integrated and participatory research demonstration programs.

UP Los Baños also manages the Museum of Natural History, a university-wide unit dedicated to exploring, documenting, and preserving the Philippines’ biological diversity. Its main role is to safely maintain priceless and irreplaceable natural history treasures acquired through university-based research and collaboration.

Adjusting to the pandemic, the UP Los Baños Museum of Natural History created virtual tours of the museum for interested parties. Hosted online are some of their collections.


The Museum, open to researchers, students, and school children, features an integrated biodiversity exhibit showcasing UP’s collection of more than 250,000 preserved Philippine animals, plants, cultures of living microorganisms, and another biota that showcase the country’s rich biodiversity and a multi-media diorama of Philippine flora and fauna and video presentations on biodiversity.

Also on exhibit are the Philippine Eagle and other endemic birds, the tamaraw, and a number of small mammals such as forest rodents, terrestrial snails from Mt. Makiling, Philippine medicinal plants, various hard and soft-bodied fungi, marine life such as whales and dolphins, and many more.

More on UP and the SDGs

UP and the Sustainable Development Goals
Message from the President
About UP
Green UP: A UP System Action Plan for Environmental Sustainability
UP at a Glance
UP on Good Health and Well-Being

UP on Quality Education
UP on Gender Equality
UP on Climate Action
UP on Partnerships to Achieve the Goals