by Victoria Uy
Thousands of students and faculty members from different state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the Philippines walked out in protest of tuition hike and other school fees (OSF) Wednesday.
Student groups from University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Manila and Los Baños, University of Santo Tomas (UST) and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), among others, convened at Mendiola Peace Arch to condemn commercialization of education.
In UP, tuition fee collection reached a 10-year high at P 473 million in 2014, based on the report released by the Commission on Audit (CoA). This was a year after the Socialized Tuition System (STS) was introduced in UP. The STS set P 1,500 as the default cost per unit, with corresponding “discount” depending on the student’s family income.
According to CoA, income from OSF in the state university, which includes registration, energy, laboratory, physical education and NSTP fees, among others, is also at its highest at almost P29 million.
But in a UP Situationer held last Feb. 18, Student Regent Mico Pangalangan said all of those should have been covered by the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), the allocated funds for activities and necessities from government subsidy.
Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo also questioned why students carry the burden of high cost of UP education while some private corporations are allowed to operate even with millions of unpaid rent.
“Bakit yung Ayala, hindi nagbabayad ng upa pero tuloy pa rin ang operasyon?” Crisostomo said, referring to the lease of UP land to Ayala Land, Inc.
According to CoA, the university has more than P 205 million worth of uncollected rental income from the corporation who operates the UP Ayala Land Technohub and the UP-Ayala Town Center.
The university leased these lands for 25 years to be a self-sufficient state university as envisioned by Aquino in his 2011 budget message to Congress, “We are gradually reducing the subsidy to [SUCs] to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their income.”
Aside from Metro Manila, students from Laguna, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Baguio City also stepped out of their classrooms on Feb. 24 as part of the National Day of Action.
National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President and Kabataan Partylist First Nominee Sarah Elago said the protest marks the beginning of more campaigns in the coming weeks. Student groups are scheduled to conduct another walk-out protest on March 11.