Aquino slashes budget of state schools in 2011 proposal
State universities and colleges (SUCs) will experience drastic cuts in their budget if Congress approves the Aquino government’s 2011 budget proposal.
In the budget proposal submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Congress last August 25, the combined budget for 112 SUCs is cut by 1.7% from P23.8 billion in 2010 to only P23.4 billion this year.
Among those with the biggest budget cuts are University of the Philippines (-P1.39 billion or 20.11%), Philippine Normal University (-P91.35 million or 23.59%), Bicol University (-P88.81 million or 18.82%), University of Southeastern Philippines (-P44.39 million or 20.03%), Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (-P31.65 million or 15.91%).
Huge cuts are proposed in the budget for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of all but 15 SUCs, some by more than 50%. The combined total operations budget for SUCs will be cut by P1.1 billion, or by 28.16%.
These education budget cuts will surely lead to further increases in tuition and other fees in state-run schools, a trend that has intensified in the past years under the past administration.
In 2006, UP hiked its tuition fees by 300%, pegging its tuition rate at more than P40,000 per year per student, even higher than tution rates of some big private schools. This signaled increase in fee rates in other state universities in the country. Last March, a plan to increase the tuition in Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) by 2000% was met and was successfully blocked by mass student protests.
As it is, obtaining a college diploma is already an impossibility to many poor Filipinos, with only 14% of those who enter elementary being able to finish college. 40% of college students are studying in SUCs; this percentage is growing as many are not able to afford the skyrocketing tuition rates in private schools.
It should be noted that budget cuts as huge as these are historically unprecedented. No other president has cut the operations budget of state schools as much. The planned budget cuts this year send a clear message that the Aquino administration intends to continue the policy to further commercialize education and abandon government responsibility in funding SUCs. This is as Aquino claims that his 2011 budget is anchored on “reform” and is “biased to the poor and vulnerable.”
Aquino offered no apologies for the budget cuts even as this policy is contrary to what the constitution sets as government’s responsibility to provide accessible and quality education at all levels. In his budget message, he even indicated that there is more to come, as his government aims “gradually reduce subsidy to SUCs” to “push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent.”
“Increasing” DepEd’s budget
The Aquino spinsters claim that the 2011 budget is an “education budget” as it prioritizes the Department of Education (DepEd). In the proposal, the agency received a 18% budget increase from 175 billion pesos to 207 billion.
This budget, however, is around P300 billion short of the UN recommended education budget equivalent to 6% of the GDP.
The budget increase for this year will also not be enough to address the shortages in facilities and stop the deteriorating condition of our schools. The government aims to acquire only 18,000 new classrooms out of the 152,000 needed, 10,000 new teachers out of 103,599 shortage, and only 32 million new textbooks out of 95 million shortage.
It should be considered that the increase in the budget is intended to fund the widely opposed plan to add two more years to basic education. According to initial pronouncements, gov’t plans to add P100 billion in 5 years, P20 billion every year. This means that whatever shortages the additional budget will cover will be offset once the government starts adding years to education.
On the other hand, the budget for debt servicing gets a boost. According to Ibon, the government proposal contained the largest absolute increase in interest payments in the country’s history, adding P80.9 billion to the budget in interest payments making it P357.1 billion. Including principal amortization (which is not included formally in the budget), total debt payments amount to P823.7 billion.
Ibon also notes the increase in war budget despite calls for austerity. The Department of National Defense (DND) also gets an increase from P96.2 billion to P104.7 billion. Budget for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), despite cases of human rights violations, will increase by P10 billion. The P6.6 billion increase in budget of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will also most likely be channeled to counter insurgency.
Despite the Aquino gov’t promise to curb corruption, Ibon also notes increases in patronage and corruption-prone funds such as the pork barrel, which increased from Php10.9 billion in 2010 to Php24.8 billion, dole-out funds which was alloted Php29.2-billion, and lump-sum funds for “Public-Private Partnership Support.”
The fight is on
The education budget cuts will surely anger the students, teachers, school administrators and parents. The Aquino government’s plan to further deny the people and youth of their right to education will be met by protests, mass actions and school walk-outs.
Hundreds of youth groups are now gearing-up for a nationwide walk-out this month. Protest activities and mass campaigns are being launched in schools nationwide. Student leaders are set to troop to Congress and Senate to pressure representatives to reject the proposed budget cuts.
A major battle between the youth and students and the Aquino administration is looming.
Arnold Padilla analyzes the 2011 budget, notes increasing the debt burden. Ibon’s statements on the 2011 Aquino budget exposes how it is an austerity to repay debt, how it is bloated by patronage and corruption-prone funds, and how it shows diminishing priority for social services. Read also Victor Villanueva’s initial take on the budget, and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Mong Palatino’s statement on the education budget cuts.