Budget cut for state schools not final – DBM

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The P900-million cut in the budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs) next year based on the indicative budget ceilings set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is not yet final.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said budget ceilings are tentative and subject to further discussions with concerned departments and agencies.

“These pronouncements on the 2014 budget for SUCs are premature, not to mention misleading to the public. The indicative budget ceilings are by no means final and inflexible. They serve only as guideposts for departments in the formulation of their budgets, and may even be subject to increases, depending on an agency’s requirements,” Abad said.

SUCs will suffer a reduction, from P32.8 billion this year to P31.9 billion next year, based on the budget ceiling set by the DBM.

Several sectors are calling for higher funding for SUCs following the death of University of the Philippines student Kristel Tejada, who committed suicide for reportedly failing to pay her tuition.

Abad, however, noted that while the budget ceiling for SUCs was set at P30.2 billion this year, the approved budget amounted to P34.9 billion.

He said indicative budget ceilings are based on a department’s budgetary requirements for its current operations and ongoing programs on the presumption that it will continue without need for more funding support next year.

“The budget ceiling may also be lower than the final budget since we haven’t accounted for an agency’s proposed programs and projects for the following year,” he said.

Amid the controversy over funding support for SUCs, Abad urged the public to seek clarification on the budget preparation from the DBM itself.

“We in the DBM maintain full transparency, accountability, and openness in the public expenditure process. We’ve made it much easier for the ordinary Filipino to engage us in dialogue, and we invite the public to contact us if anything is unclear about the budget preparation process,” he said.

He said the public and the DBM should be partners “in the responsible interpretation of budget figures to avert inaccuracies and misinformation.”


‘Give more to SUCs’

As this developed, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the House committee on technical and higher education, said the suicide of Tejada “dramatizes the need to give more, not less, support to the SUCs.”

The lawmaker noted that SUCs are “the go-to schools” of many high school graduates from the provinces. He said even second-tier or those classified by the Commission on Higher Education as developing SUCs, have acceptance rates of 60 to 50 percent.

Angara said the DBM should ensure that the budget for education has a “certain degree of flexibility and dynamism.”

He said education is the “highest investment priority of the state,” adding that the budget for education and health are the “most cost-efficient investments from the state.”

Meanwhile, Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. said private firms, especially banks, should help poor students through scholarships or loans.

Haresco, vice chairman of the House committee on small business and entrepreneurship development, said students should be provided loans to fully or partially pay their tuition, with low interest and long-term repayment schedule.

“It’s even possible for the loaning institution to engage the student borrower for practicum, part-time work, or full employment to ‘work off’ their arrears after graduation,” he said.

Haresco earlier filed House Resolution 2262 calling on appropriate House committees to conduct an inquiry into planned tuition increase. He said the probe should include a scrutiny into “unregulated” increases of other school fees. – With Paolo Romero











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