MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - State universities and colleges (SUCs) should use their savings or, in the case of Polytechnic University of the Philippines, review tuition rates instead of asking national government to restore their budgets for 2011, Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad said Friday.
Abad said the Department of Budget and Management allocated P23.4 billion for SUCs in 2011, which is P2.4 billion more than the P21 billion allocation for 2010. He said the bulk of the P2.4 billion is for the higher allocation of personal services because of increased teachers' pay mandated by the Salary Standardization Law.
What was cut from the 2011 SUC budget, Abad said, were congressional insertions worth P1 billion for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and P1.8 billion for capital outlay including construction of new buildings and facilities.
"The congressional initiatives are part of the P65 billion inserted into the National Expenditure Program, which did not have a complementing source of new revenue. That is why President Arroyo vetoed it since its conditional. She said this will be released if there is a new revenue source. Since we are in deficit, obviously we have no new revenue source," he told radio dzMM.
Instead of asking government to restore the budget insertions, Abad said SUCs should tap their own savings that now amount to P19 billion or an average of P66 million per school.
He said the University of the Philippines has the biggest savings at P11.9 billion cash balance as of end 2009 while the lowest is Mountain Province State Polytechnic College at less than P200,000.
He said SUCs can also tap the higher education development fund of the Commission on Higher Education, which is estimated to reach P750 million next year.
"Since we lack the budget, the government has to mobilize all agencies to use their money instead of just leaving it inside the banks so that they can help. The students have to learn about this. What are they planning to do with this money?" he asked.
In the case of Polytechnic University of the Philippines, he said PUP officials should also review its existing tuition rates, which is currently at P12 per unit. He noted that plans to increase tuition in PUP led to violent protests earlier.
"Kailangan din nilang tignan ang tuition fee structure kasi halimbawa kung hindi ako nagkakamali 12 pesos per unit ang bayad nila sa PUP," he said.
The DBM chief rejected a proposal to cut the P21 billion allocation for the government's conditional cash transfer project, which provides cash incentives to poor families to keep their kids 14 years and below in school.
He said the cash allocation is an equitable distribution of the government's wealth since it helps children in poor families to finish elementary and high school.
"For every 100 students in elementary, only 14 graduate from college. Those 14 do not necessarily come from poor families. If we have an investment that we can call progressive, it would be better to be placed in basic education so that more people can reach college," he said.
Officials and students of the country's state universities and colleges have held a series of protest actions in their campuses to oppose the cuts.
On Thursday, hundreds of students and faculty gathered in front of UP Diliman's Palma Hall for the protests.