An increase with setbacks: A look into the UP System’s 2024 budget

The University of the Philippines (UP) System is facing a P508-million budget increase after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA) on Wednesday, Dec. 20.

Funding for the state university in 2024 is at P24.771 billion, up from the P24.263 billion allocated this year.

The largest gainer for UP is its capital outlays or funds allocated to maintain, upgrade or acquire capital assets, which was given P3.097 billion. This accounts for an increase of more than 80% from its 2023 allocation.

UP also had more money to spend on locally funded projects, with the lion’s share going to the Free Higher Education Program at P2.142 billion. This is a P607-million increase from the free tuition budget for 2023.

The sum is used to fund the tuition and other school fees of undergraduate students in the UP System, pursuant to the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

The university’s Advanced Education Program for graduate studies is also getting an additional P194 million next year, putting its total budget at P1.51 billion.

Cutting corners

The additional budget, however, did not come without any setbacks as funding for most of UP’s regular programs had been reduced. For instance, the university’s budget for its Higher Education Program, which is used for scholarships, colleges and institutes, and salaries of faculty and staff, is getting a P943-million cut.

Further, funding for the university’s research services is down by P5.68 million. UP’s technical advisory extension program, meanwhile, will have a larger budget reduction at P14.3 million.

Extension services refer to projects and activities by UP in cooperation with other government offices, higher educational institutions, non-government organizations and local communities, such as the Diliman Extension Programs in Pampanga and Olongapo (DEPPO).

The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which gets its budget from UP, also faces a markdown in the 2024 budget. From P5.41 billion this year, it will be reduced to P4.96 billion in 2024. 

Additionally, the hospital’s fund for the Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients (MAIP) program will be slashed by more than P194 million.

The MAIP program was instituted through a 2017 administrative order of the Department of Health. It grants all government health facilities, including those managed by state universities and colleges like UP, budget allotments for a fund that indigent patients can access.

New buildings, more benefits

On the other hand, more funding will be given to the various projects of UP, with system-wide initiatives taking the lion’s share of the P6.19-billion budget.

Among the projects in the pipeline are the construction and site development for UP’s “Technology Innovation Campus” in Cavite and the expansion and operationalization of its extension campus in Pandan, Antique.

The Cavite campus, which was first announced in 2016, aims to “facilitate collaboration and develop partnerships with industries and business enterprises” in the Southern Tagalog region. It is a partnership with Vista Land and Lifescapes, Inc. — a company founded by Manny Villar.

Despite the budget cut for hospital services, PGH was given P2.08 billion as funds for its programs and projects. Around half of this will be for the construction of facilities, including a Pediatric and Adult Specialty Center, clinics and a dormitory for health workers.

The government has also allocated funds for the establishment of a fire suppression and detection system in PGH buildings, following the fire that broke out in the hospital in 2021. There is also a provision for benefits for healthcare workers at PGH amounting to P77.6 million.

Meanwhile in Diliman, the College of Mass Communication will also receive P5 million for the detailed architectural and engineering design of its upcoming archives building.

Financial assistance for athletic programs of the College of Human Kinetics also got a budget increase of P5.44 million.

The budget backstory

Several groups such as the Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP (KASAMA sa UP) have since criticized budget cuts for state universities and colleges.

“Lulubha lang din ang mga isyung simula’t sapul ay kinakaharap na nila tulad ng kakulangan ng class at dorm slots, kasalatan sa mura’t masustansiyang pagkain sa pamantasan, at kawalan ng aksesibleng serbisyo para sa kalusugang pisikal at mental,” the group said in a unity statement last Nov. 15.

The Diliman unit struggled with democratic spaces due to the lack of dorm slots, conversion of student spaces into administrative offices and displacement of maninindas by the DiliMall.

READ: Kakulangan sa akademikong espasyo, dormitoryo tinutulan

Meanwhile, education rights group Rise for Education Alliance – UP Diliman slammed the allocation of P10 billion for confidential and intelligence funds, calling for its reallocation to social services.

Amid the budget deliberations in October, the House’s appropriations committee reallocated P1.23 billion in confidential funds of civilian agencies to those in charge of national security and territory, especially in the West Philippine Sea.

Among the agencies stripped of secret funds are the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education, both headed by Marcos’ running mate Sara Duterte.