3 departments may suffer budget cuts to fund free tuition program
The free tuition of accredited state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and technical vocation schools may be funded through the budget realigned from three departments which underperformed in its usage of its funds.
In a statement on Thursday, Davao city Rep. Karlo Nograles, chairman of the House appropriations committee, warned that the Departments of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and Department of Transportation (DoTr) may suffer budget cuts, which would instead be realigned to the implementation of the free tuition law.
Nograles said these agencies may contribute at least P37.5 billion as standby fund for the free college education program for 114 State Universities and Colleges, 16 Local Universities and Colleges accredited by the Commission on Higher Education, as well as the 122 Technical-Vocational Institutions (TVIs) under Tesda.
Nograles slammed the three government agencies’ sluggish implementation of programs and projects, as well as low absorptive capacity.
He said the DICT has P2.7 billion of unused appropriations in 2016 and P2.695 billion in unused appropriations in 2017; DAR has P6 billion unutilized fund in 2015, and P5 billion unobligated fund in 2016; and DoTr has P30 billion unobligated fund in 2016.
“The 2016 funds are still alive and set to expire on December 31, 2017. At this point in time I am very doubtful they will be able to utilize those funds. So I am looking at considering these funds as savings and writing a supplemental budget to use as standby fund for the free higher education law,” Nograles said.
Congress is tackling ways to fund the free tuition program, especially after government remains baffled how to finance the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education, which was recently signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The House appropriation committee deliberation on the DICT’s P6.87 billion was even deferred Thursday as Nograles slammed the department’s underspending of funds which could be realigned to the free tuition program.
“That is a lot of money I can use for free tertiary education,” Nograles said during the hearing.
Under the DICT’s proposed 2018 budget, the National Telecommunications Commission has an allotment of P453.5 million; National Privacy Commission with P150.8 million; and the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center with P19.7 million.
The DICT was allotted a 2018 proposed budget which is P3.34 billion higher from its P3.53 billion approved budget in 2017. With reports from Teriz Castro, Inquirer.net trainee/JE
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