Senator discloses rejected plans for SUC budget hike

by Victoria Uy

Chiz Escudero speaks at the Vice Presidential Forum at the UP College of Law. Photo by Anton Onato.
       Chiz Escudero speaks at the Vice Presidential Forum at the UP College of Law. Photo by Anton Onato.

Senator Chiz Escudero said it was the House of Representatives who reduced the 2016 budget for state universities and colleges (SUCs) in a vice-presidential forum on November 30 at University of the Philippines – Diliman College of Law.

“The Senate approved a P4 billion increase in the (University of the Philippines)’s 2015 budget. When DBM (Department of Budget and Management) submitted their budget proposal for 2016, they refused the hike we (Senate) offered,” Escudero said, citing the 2015 UP budget as example.

In the 2016 budget proposal, 59 state schools were set to suffer cuts in their operations budget. This is mainly due to a decrease in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) appropriations used for the construction of new buildings and similar projects, with the largest slash suffered by the UP system.

From P13.7 billion, DBM’s proposed budget for UP dropped to P11.45 billion this year. This is the biggest budget cut prior to 2011, when UP was allocated P5.75 billion in the first budget crafted under Aquino. This was a P1.16 billion drop from the 2010 budget of P6.92 billion.

Students from UP Diliman, UP Visayas, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) have since led a series of walk-outs against the budget cut. Similar protest activities were held in several regions, including Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Western Visayas, and Davao.

Consequently, in the final House version of the General Appropriations Bill passed this October, the Lower House added close to P1 billion to the SUCs budget, following amendments proposed and submitted by Kabataan Partylist and the Rise for Education Alliance to the House Committee on Appropriations.

On December 1, Congress hiked up the SUCs budget, including UP which has now a P15.549 billion budget in the final version of the General Appropriations Bill, a 4.1 billion increase from the original proposal. The Senate version of the SUCs budget is P4.3 billion higher than what the House passed with bulk of the increase set aside for scholarships. While DBM increased the budget for UP, the increments were significantly lower than what the Senate proposed.

“Our youth and student leaders, led by the Rise for Education Alliance, did everything to stop the impending budget cuts in over 50 state schools and assure greater budget allocation for said schools,” Congressman Terry Ridon said in an interview with Kabataan Partylist. “There will be a significant increase in the budget of our state schools, a clear victory for all youth and students who fought and campaigned against budget cuts.”

Meanwhile, Camarines Sur third district representative Leni Robredo said she is against reducing the budget for education and believes more funds should be allocated to tertiary education. She said almost all finances for education are channeled towards primary and secondary; with the tertiary often neglected.

“Education should not be prohibited to the underprivileged. Poverty should not be a reason for them to discontinue their studies,” Robredo said.

On its second year, “Ang Pagsusuri” is a vice-presidential discussion conducted by Tatak Botante, an initiative of the National Alliance of Youth Leaders (NAYLPH). Senator Bongbong Marcos was originally part of the speakers but he backed out, while Senators Alan Cayetano and Gringo Honasan were not able to attend due to prior commitments.


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