Bordado, Manuel want budget cuts to SUCs, CHED programs, restored | Inquirer News

Bordado, Manuel want budget cuts to SUCs, CHED programs, restored

/ 02:26 AM September 23, 2022
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MANILA, Philippines — At least two lawmakers in the House of Representatives have called on their colleagues to restore slashed funds affecting state universities and colleges (SUCs) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), as these would mean lesser assistance for students who used to benefit from programs.

Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado and Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, during the plenary debates on the proposed budgets for SUCs and CHED, said that Congress might need to restore the budget or it would affect enrollees in 2023.

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Bordado first asked Surigao del Norte Rep. Peter John Calderon, one of the sponsors of the budget for SUCs, as to why funding for the SUCs were slashed.

“The SUCs are eyeing a total of P93,325,348,000 to sustain their operations next year across the 17 regions in the country […] based on the records here, the SUCs are considered as the fourth biggest losers in the budgetary allocation. Madam Speaker, let me give you some examples, Marikina Polytechnic College, the budget of this Marikina Polytechnic College dropped by 80.92 percent. The Marinduque State College had a slash of 79.97 percent,” Bordado said.

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“The Romblon State University, the budget of this university was cut by more than 63% Madam Speaker and the Central Bicol University of Agriculture which is located in my district, its budget was cut by more than 51%, Madam Speaker. Mr. Sponsor, had the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) or any concerned agency ever inform you of the reasons for this unkindest cut to borrow a phrase from William Shakespeare?” he asked.

Calderon said that the sponsors themselves do not agree with the budget cuts suffered by the SUCs.

“Madam speaker, your honor, personally, I don’t agree and it’s a sad thing that the DBM reduced drastically the budget of the SUCs. In fact, all the SUCs are requesting that their budget be augmented for fiscal year 2023,” Calderon said.

“This representation is one with them and all of us five (5) sponsors of the different SUCs are one with the SUCs in asking the help of this August body to augment their budget for FY 2023 so that they can perform their mandate to provide quality education to all our students, Mr. Speaker, Your honor,” he added.

Bordado eventually focused on the cuts suffered by the University of the Philippines (UP) system, particularly that for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

After the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) handed over the proposed P5.268 trillion budget to the House of Representatives last August 22, it was discovered that the UP system faced a P2.5 billion budget cut, including the P893 slashed from the PGH which operates as part of the UP system.

READ: UP system faces P2.5-B cut in proposed 2023 budget; P893-M slashed from PGH 

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In response, Calderon said allocation for both the personnel services and the maintenance and other operating expenses increased, but the request for capital outlay did not increase.

Calderon also said that he hopes the allocations for SUCs would increase — noting that he said hopefully because it would depend on Congress to raise the budget allocation.

“So Madam Speaker, Mr. Sponsor, if it will depend on us, I am categorically and strongly calling for the restoration of the budget cuts of SUCs and the University of the Philippines particularly the Philippine General Hospital, Madam Speaker,” Bordado replied.

Manuel also echoed the sentiments of the sponsor to increase the allocations for SUCs, noting that even if enrollment rates do not increase in 2023, the budget for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTE) would already be lacking.

“Assuming that the enrollment rates remain constant, we should have no difference in the proposed budget.  But if we consider the increase in enrollment to SUCs, under the 2023 National Expenditures Program, there would be a shortage worth P5.8 million according to their projection,” he said in Filipino.

“The slashes incurred by the DBM have no sufficient basis.  We cannot just ask our SUCs to reduce enrollment all of a sudden or drop students from the list of beneficiaries so that they can adjust for their budget reduction.  We are one with the sponsors in calling for additional funding for SUCs, and we would do the appropriate action in Congress for that to happen,” he added.

CHED budget cuts

Regarding CHED’s budget cuts, Bordado asked sponsor, Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin as to whether the agency has other ways to continue providing assistance to students despite the slash in funding.

Bordado questioned if it is true that CHED would suspend new applications to its Scholarship Program for freshmen students of the school year 2022-2023 due to the funding shortage, which Garin said is correct.

“So if the lack of funding is the problem in 2022, why is it that CHED is asking for an even lower allocation for the StuFAPs (Student Financial Assistance Program)  in 2023? Are there any other alternate programs to assist students in the tertiary level?” he asked.

“Actually Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, the request of the Commission on Higher Education was a lot lot higher, however, the amount that you mentioned is what was allocated by the Department of Budget and Management considering the NEP 2022 as the basis for such,” Garin replied.

Manuel also asked why some Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs) would not get funds despite these being assured under the Free Higher Education Program of the UAQTE.

“I want to know how our students would fare, especially since several line items have deductions or are lacking in funds allocated.  For example, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education, under it is the Free Higher Education Program for our LUCs.  But there are five newly-accredited LUCs that may not be given funds,” Manuel said.

CHED previously said in a statement last Sunday that SUCs and LUCs who have not complied with government rules cannot receive reimbursement for their tuition and miscellaneous fees.

“The Commission has already identified the noncompliant SUCs because our records show that only those with compliance issues have not been paid with whatever funds that have been downloaded by DBM to the Commission,” CHED Chairperson Prospero de Vera III said.

“I have also received reports that some SUCs have been telling their faculty that CHED is not processing the papers. Some SUC presidents have also raised the issue publicly where upon investigation, their SUCs have not complied with requirements,” he added.

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