by Rod Cuera
P21.8 billion. One hundred and twelve state universities and colleges (SUCs). 2012.
These numbers figure in the newest National Expenditure Program (NEP) of the Noynoy Aquino Administration. A total of 112 SUCs will be pushed to share the meager 2012 proposed budget pie of P21.8 billion. The said budget allocation is lower compared to 2011’s P22.03 billion fund for SUCs.
No state university will be accorded funds for the capital outlay. Maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and Personal Services (PS) also remarkably decreased for SUCs.
In his budget message last year, Aquino emphasized that his administration aims to gradually reduce the subsidy for SUCs and to ultimately transform SUCs to be self-sustaining and financially independent of the government. In Aquino’s scheme of things, SUCs are directed to take on the road of Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Inviting private investors in the affairs of public tertiary education will normativize the commercial generation of income among SUCs and will open the universities to tread the path of privatization.
For example, the past decade saw the radical decrease in the fund allotted by the government for the operations of SUCs. At present, only 66.31% of the budget of SUCs comes from the government, as compared to the 87.74% state subsidy to SUCs in 2000.
The decrease in state funding of education propels SUCs to generate their own income, primarily by increasing tuition and other fees. The past decade has underscored that income generated from tuition and other fees leaped from P1.5 billion to P7.7 billion in 2011, according to government projection. This makes up 22.1% of the total 2011 budget of SUCs, which sprang from 2001’s 8.3%.
This step mars the transformative course of education. According to Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo, the Philippine educational situation worsens yearly because of the annual decline in the government’s budget allocation. Crisostomo also scrutinized the Aquino administration for allotting bulk of its budget to debt servicing, military expenditure, pork barrel and dole-outs while the budget for the education sector remains trailing behind.
As if adding insult to injury, the Aquino administration will allocate P356.1 billion to debt servicing and P107 billion for military expenditure. Funds for dole-outs (conditional cash transfer or CCT) will increase from 2011’s P29.2 billion to next year’s proposed P39.5 billion. In addition, pork barrels for legislators will rise from P24.6 billion to P24.8 billion. The president’s pork barrel, including intelligence funds, will summit at P161 billion compared to the 2011 allocation of P66 billion.
In a statement at the website of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP), Crisostomo marked Aquino, “It is not only wang-wang which needs to be eradicated but this utak weng-wang, or misplaced priorities.”
Student leaders, formations and institutions led by Anakbayan, National Union of the Students of the Philippines (NUSP), and various groups from SUCs will launch a nationwide protest against budget cut. “We call on President Aquino to withdraw the budget cuts and allot sufficient funding for our SUCs. We are prepared to back these calls with determined actions: campus strikes, mass demonstrations will be our weapon,” said Crisostomo.