Abad tells activists: More funds won’t doBy Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
More money does not mean better quality of education, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. on Sunday said in the wake of protests by students and teachers of state universities and colleges across the country against cuts in funding.
“Note the recent international survey where the well-funded Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and UST (University of Santo Tomas) fared worse than the underfunded UP (University of the Philippines),” Abad said in a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In the world university rankings for 2011-2012 by London-based Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), UP was ranked 332 from 314 a year ago, ahead of Ateneo which placed 360th, down from 307th place.
La Salle dropped from the 451-500 bracket last year to the 551-600 bracket this year. UST was out of the 551-600 group, dropping to the 601+ bracket.
QS, a company specializing in education and study abroad, said countries that had cut funding for higher education saw a gradual decline in the international standing of their universities.
“This may come as a disappointment, but possibly not a surprise as thousands of students recently took to the streets in protest of the government’s budget cuts in higher education,” QS said in a statement when it released the rankings early this month.
It believed that higher investments could lead to higher rankings.
Abad said he had given careful thought to the declining quality of education in the country and school funding.
Concerns of SUCs
“Both were considered but SUCs (state universities and colleges) have other serious concerns,” he said.
Contrary to militant lawmakers’ claims, Abad said the funding for the 112 SUCs had been increased in the proposed budget for next year to P26.1 billion from P23.7 billion this year.
The amount is broken down into P23.6 billion for the core budget of the SUCs, P2 billion to fill up vacancies lumped under the Miscellaneous and Personnel Benefit Funds (MPBF), and P500 million under the Committee on Higher Education for SUC Development.
Protesters have demanded a P45-billion budget for SUCs next year, but Abad said this was not feasible.
“If we gave all agencies their maximum budget, the total budget will go past P2 trillion, which is way beyond what we can afford,” Abad said.
The House has approved the P1.816-trillion budget for 2012. It has yet to be approved by the Senate.
Abad said the government had allocated P2 billion under the MPBF to fill up 5,569 positions or 9 percent of all available jobs in the 112 SUCs.
The budget secretary noted that UP alone accounted for 33 percent of the unfilled positions, or 1,885.
“The proposed budget of the UP System in 2012 amounts to P5.974 billion plus P654.1 million for unfilled positions under MPBF, or a total of P6.619 billion. This is definitely higher, by 7 percent, than the P6.176-billion budget (which includes provisions for unfilled positions) of the UP System in 2011.
He said it was the practice of SUCs to use funds for unfilled regular positions to hire casual or contractual staff.
“For instance, they may hire a lecturer on a contractual basis first until he or she attains the academic and other necessary qualifications for a professorial position,” the budget secretary said in a statement.
Abad said there were instances when faculty members would not want to work full time. “So there is the option to give them part-time regular positions or hire them as contractual. These are valid needs and concerns.”
He said the budget department wanted to introduce more accountability in the realignment of these funds.
“That is why we segregated funds for unfilled positions into the MPBF. Also, we want to encourage SUCs to regularize their contractual employees who are already qualified for regular positions,” he said.