By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers sought on Thursday to restore cuts in the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) of the state universities and colleges (SUCs), even as they also vowed to study options to augment funding for personnel services (PS) and capital outlay (CO) of the SUCs.
During the pre-plenary conference on the proposed P64.87 billion budget of SUCs for 2020 yesterday, Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago said they will step in and address the “hefty budget cuts” being suffered by 53 out of 114 SUCs.
“Of the 114 SUCs, 53 of which will have cuts in their overall budget, while about 19 SUCs will have cuts in their MOOEs. Nine SUCs s will have zero capital outlays. Forty-nine out of the 114 SUCs will have cuts in their budget for capital outlay. Ninety from the 114 SUCs will receive PS cuts for 2020,” she told the House Committee on Appropriations yesterday.
To address the concerns of the SUCs, Elago led the filing House Resolution 325 strongly urging the House Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab to restore the cuts in the MOOE of 19 schools amounting to P614.7 million and find ways to increase the funding allocation for SUCs for personnel services and CO.
She said at least 71 House members rallied behind the adoption of HR 325.
Elago noted that that the cuts in the MOOE of 19 state schools amount to P614.7 million.
Some of the heftiest MOOE cut include Bukidnon State University from the current P207.75 million to P101.55 million; Compostella Valley State College from P24 million to P16.7 million; Sulu State College from P18.8 million to P14.16 million; Agusan del Sur State College of Agriculture and Technology from P76.56 million to P62.69 million; and University of Eastern Philippines from P57.56 million to P49.7 million, she said.
“National Capital Region and Northern Mindanao are the regions most affected by the MOOE cuts, with four and three schools, respectively,” Elago said.
During the pre-plenary budget conference, Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) president Dr. Tirso Ronquillo asked lawmakers to augment their “very limited budget” for next year.
He disclosed that they originally proposed P116.6 billion next year, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only granted them P64.87 million.
“Our government is spending a little fraction of our GDP to education. We are here and being expected to do wonderful things, but we are given very limited budget,” Ronquillo said.
“We proposed P116.6 billion, but we were granted P64.87 billion. There was 44 percent cut if we will compare the NEP with our proposed budget. That proposed budget captures our commitment to do more research and other programs in our SUCs,” he said.
He noted that they originally proposed P50.2 billion capital outlay, but were only given P10.6 billion.
“That capital outlay corresponds to additional equipment in our laboratories, additional library buildings, additional classrooms, but these were not given. That’s really our lamentation before this floor,” Ronquillo said.
Upon hearing Ronquillo, Benguet Rep. Nestor Fongwan called on the Appropriations panel, presided by vice chairman Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza to sit down with House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, chaired by Baguio Rep. Mark Go to push for a budget increase for SUCs.
“Mr. Chair, can we do something about this? The House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education can sit down and push to increase the budget of the SUCs,” he said.
Daza also expressed his support to augment the funding allocation for the SUCs.
During the pre-plenary conference, Ronquillo disclosed that nine SUCs suffered zero capital outlay allocation under the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020.
“May we request nine other SUC with zero CO be included in the list for funding?,” he asked.
The nine SUCs are set to incur 100 percent budget cut or a total of P251.5 million for CO. These include Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology, Batangas State University, Southern Luzon State University, J.H. Cerise State College, Zamboanga City State Polytechnic College, Southern Philippines-Cagayan de Oro Campus, Basilan State College, Sulu State College and Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College.
Elago noted that 49 state schools will incur CO cuts totaling P3.34 billion, and the largest decrease will be suffered by nine SUCs.
She said 90 from the 114 SUCs will receive PS cuts for 2020. The 2020 PS net budget decreased by 3.37 percent or equivalent to P1.5 billion decrease, she added.
“It is apparent that nearing two million SUC students are the real victims in the continued underfunding of the government for our SUCs. Due to insufficient funds, states schools intensify the collection of tuition and other fees,” she said.
“We need a kind of education that will capacitate the youth as agents of social change. It is, therefore, imperative for us to collectively advance our demands to strengthen public education. Without education, the nation’s chance for national progress and development is left to chance,” she stressed.