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FAQ: Aquino’s budget cut on SUCs

(Part of an article published on blogwatch.ph)

Is there a budget cut for SUCs in the 2011 Aquino budget?

Yes. Aquino said it himself in his budget message to congress last August 24, 2010:

“We allocated P23.4 billion to 112 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in 2011. This is 1.7 percent lower than the P23.8 billion budget for 2010. We are gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent..”

Note that not only did his government cut the budget, but he intends to gradually reduce funding for SUCs.

The government is claiming that there are no cuts since they are only cutting “congressional initiatives”(CIs) and that in fact, they are increasing the budget compared to 2010. Is this true?

No. First of all, the congressional initiatives were passed precisely to compensate for the lack of funds of the SUCs. These additions should not have been cut and should have been restored and provided without condition.

Second, it is not true that it is only these CIs which have been cut. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Allan Cayetano explained that the CIs are alloted mainly for scholarships and capital outlay.

Budget for Maintanance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) of 97 out of 112 SUCs will be cut by a total of P1.1 billion or 28%, with some universities suffering cuts of more than 50% of their MOOE budget. (See list of SUCs with cuts here.)

It should be noted that compliance to the Salary Standardization Law 3, passed last Congress, should have already automatically affected a dramatic increase in the budget for SUCs. This is the so-called increase that government is wrongfully taking credit for, but one that has actually been offset by the huge cuts in MOOE and capital outlay.

Note also that no more capital outlay (to build new buildings and facilities) has been allotted to SUCs except one.

CHED scholarship funds have also been slashed by P650 million.

Where does the government want the SUCs to get funds for their needs? What will be the effect of the reduction of state subsidy to SUCs?

DBM Secretary Abad and Malacanang Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda have been quoted as saying schools should increase tuition instead of asking for more state subsidy.

At present, data from the Commission on Higher Education showed that 80 percent of high school graduates do not make it to college. Only 14% of those who enter elementary will be able to finish college. It should be noted that 40% of the students in college study in SUCs. This number is further increasing due to the high costs of private tertiary education.

Government plan to abandon SUCs will push more students to go out of school and more families into poverty.

Isn’t it true that the SUCs have billions worth savings? Gov’t saying SUCs have enough funds.

No. These “savings” are not savings but income generated which are already appropriated and are already being used by the SUCs to cover expenses. This considered, the budget of SUCs is still lacking as proven by dilapidated facilities and buildings, and various fee increases being implemented, burdening students and parents.

Aquino says he is prioritizing basic and secondary education. Is this a valid justification for the SUC cuts? Is there a significant increase in the budget for basic education?

No. The government should not pit the welfare of students in basic education and tertiary education. According to Article 14, Section 1, of the Philippine Constitution, “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.”

There is no significant increase in the budget for basic education. They say, the DepEd budget was increased from P175 billion to P207.27 billion or P32 billion. Of this, P23 billion is in the form of an increase in salaries because of the Salary Standardization Law 3, again, which Pres. Aquino cannot take any credit for.

The rest of the “increase” will go to:

  • 18,000 new classrooms, while the shortage is pegged at more than 152,000
  • Target additional armchairs is about 1 million while the shortage is at a staggering 13 million.
  • Only 32 million new textbooks are planned to be purchased while the current shortage is at 95 million.
  • Target for new teachers meanwhile is only 10,000 when the shortage is 103,000.

The government will spend only P5.79 in real per capita per day spending.

Government claims that it is short of funds and calls for austerity. Is it true that there are no funds that can be allotted to SUCs?

No. While the government is scrimping on funds for education and social services, it increased debt servicing, military spending and corruption funds.

  • Pork barrel funds for legislators will be increased by more than P13.9 billion for a total of P24.8 billion.
  • Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be given an additional P2 billion in pork barrel funds.
  • Lump-sum (read: corruption) funds for 2011 total P245 billion. Of this amount, P68 billion represents audit-free Presidential pork barrel.
  • Dole-out and patronage funds under the Conditional Cash Transfer program of the DSWD has a budget of P29 billion.
  • The military, notorious for violating human rights and killing civilians, will be awarded a P10 billion increase in its budget for a total of P104.7 billion.
  • Debt servicing eats the chunk of the budget, getting an increase of P80.9 billion with P823 billion in total spending for both interest payments and principal amortization.

It is only just to call on the government to rechannel the budget from these items to cuts education and other social services, instead of cutting their funds.

Other social services have cuts too?

Yes. Allocation for health is slashed by 3.5%, from the P 40.0 billion adjusted allocation in 2010 to only P 38.627 billion for 2011. The amount represents only 2.35% of the entire national government budget, further reduced from only 2.6% last year. The government will spend only P0.70 for every Filipino for health.

Legal Assistance Funds and assistance to nationals funds for OFWs have been slashed by 50 percent, the LAF decreased from P50 million this year to P27 million for 2011.

Funds for agriculture and subsidies for farmers have also been slashed. Rice subsidy for NFA is slashed by P8 billion.

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