Party-list reps slam budget cuts for state universities, colleges

Two opposition lawmakers on Friday denounced the decision of the Budget department to cut the government allocation for the country’s universities and colleges for next year.

House deputy minority leader and 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III and Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon renewed their appeal to the House committee on appropriations, headed by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab to restore the P4778-million budget slashed by Malacañang from the maintenance and other operating expenses of 59 SUCs in the proposed 2016 General Appropriations Bill.

“We reiterate this appeal to the Committee on Appropriations to heed the call for more resources for our state universities and colleges,” Bello said during his interpellation in plenary session Friday to the SUCs’ proposed budget for 2016.

 “I call for the government savings realized in last years’ expenditure program and savings so far realized from this years’ budget be used to augment the much needed support for our SUCS,” Bello added.

Bello co-authored House Resolution 2377 of Ridon, member of the Makabayan Bloc, for the restoration of the multi-million peso budget for the SUCs.

Citing the resolution, Bello said the 1.6 SUC students would be the “real victims” in the continued underfunding of the government for the SUCs.

Bello said the expenditure program on infrastructure should be balanced with the needs of the country’s students, especially the poor ones, “to ensure quality education for our youth.”

“We can have all the roads and bridges, airports and ports but how   will they benefit an ignorant citizenry?” Bello asked.

For his part, Ridon said that due to insufficient funds, state schools intensify the collection of tuition and various fees.

Citing data from the DBM’s Budget of Expenditures and Sources Financing, Ridon said that while the total expenditure of 114 SUCs in the country amounts to an average of P59 billion annually, the government provision for SUCs falls short by P16 billion, amounting to an average of P43 billion since 2014.

“To compensate for the lack of subsidy, SUCs are compelled to earn their own income through various means, including charging tuition and other fees, and utilizing assets,” Ridon said in his resolution.

“There are massive lump sum allocations for pork barrel in the 2016 budget, yet there is a new spate of budget cuts for SUCs. This will undoubtedly result to new and higher fees in the future,” Ridon said.

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