The proposed 2018 budget does not have P8 billion earmarked for free higher education in state universities and colleges (SUCs), unlike the 2017 budget.
House Appropriations Committee chair Karlo Nograles confirmed this at the start of the panel’s deliberations for next year’s budget.
“Siguro tinitignan nila nakaraang budget nung 2017 may nakalaan P8 billion sa free higher education. Dito naman sa budget na ito ‘di nila nakikita ‘yan, kung maaalala niyo 2017 ‘yang P8 billion. Originally wala sa budget presentation ng DBM ito nangyari lang at naipasok during the bicam,” he said.
Nograles said the administration carried over their original budget proposal for 2017 which did not have the budget for free higher education which was a mere insertion made by lawmakers at the bicameral conference committee last year.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said implementing the government’s free college tuition program will cost about P100 billion annually.
“We estimated that the cost of this bill …it will cost us P100 billion, and hindi po kaya ng gobyerno ‘yan,” Diokno said.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said government would find it hard to sustain the budget for free tuition.
“The budget for free tuition is quite large, it’s not pittance, it’s going to be unsustainable over time,” he said.
Nograles, however, said lawmakers can still work on the funding.
“Mahaba ang panahon maraming pagkakataon na maipasok kung ito ay pagdedesisyunan ng House of Representatives at ng Senado. So tignan natin kung ano ang mangyayari mula ngayon hanggang sa ending may mga pagkakataon na baka maibalik ang pondo sa free higher education,” he said.
The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act was approved by Congress in May and is awaiting the President’s signature or it will lapse into law on August 5.
Nograles, however, doesn’t think beneficiaries of free higher education have anything to worry about as there are existing funds in the proposed budget that can sustain the free higher education program.
“Meron pa nakalaan naman sa budget ng CHED. Meron silang pondo para sa scholarships ang UNIFAST,” he said.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, meanwhile, questioned the fact that the government proposed to spend over P1 trillion in infrastructure projects, but zero for free public college, a move that abruptly discontinues the introduction of free tuition in SUCs that is set to only begin this year.
“With the national government intending to spend over a trillion pesos in 2018 and up to P8.1 trillion from 2017 to 2022 for infrastructure, wala pong kasiguruhan ang mamamayan na hindi lang basta maibubulsa, pagkakakakitaan, o kung anumang himala pa ang puntahan ng badyet para sa infrastructure,” she said.
The solon noted how this fact stands in stark contrast to the exclusion of any allocation to sustain the free tuition for SUCs in the 2018 budget, despite the fact that Congress has already transmitted a consolidated bill awaiting the President’s signature.
“Worse, the budget books show that DBM expects SUCs to increase tuition collection from the estimated P7.8 billion in 2017 to P9.1 billion in 2018, a whopping 16.2 percent increase. Di na nga popondohan ang free tuition ulit, mukhang nagbibigay pa ng signal ang DBM na magtaas ng singil sa matrikula ang ating mga pampublikong pamantasan sa susunod na taon,” Elago said.
The administration’s economic managers presented the 2018 Budget to the committee on Tuesday. They were led by Bangko Sentral Governor Nestor Espenilla, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Enesto Pernia.
The education sector will get the biggest chunk of the budget with a funding of P691.1 billion broken down as follows: Department of Education (DepED), P613.1 billion; Commission on Higher Education (CHED), P13.5 billion; and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), P64.6 billion.
The other agencies with the highest budgetary allocations are: Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH),P643.3 billion; Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), P172.3 billion; Department of Health (DOH), P164.3 billion; Department of National Defense (DND), P145 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), P138 billion; Department of Transportation (DOTr), P73.8 billion; Department of Agriculture (DA), P54.2 billion; Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), P33.5 billion; and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), P27.9 billion.
The 2018 proposed national budget is P3.767 trillion.