Students walk out vs budget cuts

Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - August 27, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Youth groups yesterday staged a nationwide walkout in various tertiary education institutions to protest the proposed decrease in operating expenses of 59 state universities and colleges (SUCs) next year, which may result in higher tuition.

Students led by the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Kabataan party-list led the protests to denounce the move of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to decrease the proposed budget of 59 SUCs in 2016.

At the University of the Philippines in Diliman, dozens of students held indoor protest actions and noise barrages to join the call for increased funding in education.

Similar activities were also held at UP Manila and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, where students held a unity walk to criticize the budget cuts.

Protest actions were also held by students in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Western Visayas and Davao, according to the youth groups.

NUSP president Sarah Elago said the proposed cuts in operating expenses of state schools may result in hikes in tuition and other fees.

“By cutting the budget for our state schools, the Aquino administration is actually pushing them to recoup the losses through higher collections from students,” Elago said.

“It is apparent that the governmental framework for public tertiary higher education is to transmogrify it into a system steeped with elitism, for education to be a commodity that only a select few could afford,” she added.

Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo noted that tuition and other fees have continued to skyrocket during the term of the President Aquino.

“These show further commercialization of education under Aquino and a policy to further increase tuition and other school fees. This is unacceptable,” he said.

On Wednesday, Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said that while there is an across-the-board increase in personal services of all 114 SUCs, the DBM proposed a P477.8-million decrease in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of 59 school.

Personal services are used for salaries of employees, while MOOE is used to fund day-to-day operations and utilities of an agency.

Another 40 SUCs will suffer a decrease in their capital outlay, which is used to fund the construction of new infrastructure and other similar projects.

UP, which will receive increases in personal services and MOOE next year, will get the biggest reduction in capital outlay amounting to P2.2 billion.

The DBM earlier explained that capital outlay decreased because projects have been completed.

In the case of UP, president Alfredo Pascual said the university received a huge capital outlay funding this year to finance the procurement of new equipment for the Philippine General Hospital, which is attached to UP Manila. The capital outlay budget is not recurring, thus the decline in the proposed 2016 budget.

Earlier, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said the budget for SUCs has been increasing under the Aquino administration.

CHED noted that the proposed combined budget of all 114 SUCs has increased from this year’s P42.3 billion to P43.8 billion.

But Ridon said the proposed increase is only due to the increase in personal services.  

“At first glance, the budget for SUCs in 2016 seems to be nominally bigger than last year’s budget. But if we analyze each component of the budget carefully, one will see that the increase in the personnel service outlay actually hides the cuts in the MOOE and capital outlay components,” Ridon pointed out.

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