P8,000 Daily for a PMA Cadet; a Paltry P43 for the State Scholar

Unlike all other state universities and colleges (SCUs), the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) remains the learning institution most favored by government. While the budget of the SCUs has been slashed anew several-fold this year, that of the PMA has been increased.

By Ronalyn Olea

Compared to all other state universities and colleges (SCUs), the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) remains the learning institution most favored by government. Along with the Department of Education (DepEd), the SCUs have their new budgets slashed several-fold.

The PMA, as expected, has no budget cut; its allocation has in fact been increased – from P557.92 million last year to P568.17 million this year. In the proposed budget, the PMA cadet is subsidized with P12 million for a four-year course or roughly P8,219 a day; his counterpart at the state Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) has a measly P43 a day or only 0.52 percent of the PMA cadet’s daily subsidy.

The PMA produces the country’s military elite but its professional hierarchy in the armed forces has been wracked by graft scandals, mutinous tendencies and human rights violations. This has not deterred the current presidency – and its predecessors – from showering both the military and national police with fat salary increases and other high budget allocations, however.

Speaking at a rally of about 1,000 students in Mendiola, Manila on Feb. 14, Rizza Ramirez, national president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), asked: “Is this government more interested in producing corrupt military officials than professionals and teachers much needed by the country?  While this government spends huge amounts of money in launching its war in Mindanao, the Filipino students suffer from dilapidated facilities, tuition and miscellaneous fee hikes and low quality of education.”

The Valentine’s Day rally, joined by students from SCUs and public high schools, called President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a “heartless mother.”  The state scholars and other rallyers lambasted the Macapagal-Arroyo government for cutting education expenditures mercilessly in favor of debt servicing and military expenditures.

In the proposed national budget for this year, 33.6 percent goes to interest payments amounting to P301.69 billion, Ramirez said.  The combined allocation for debt servicing, including the payment for the principal debt, accounts for more than 70 percent of the national budget. The country has now incurred a $60 billion foreign debt.

Moreover, P1.2 billion will be allotted for intelligence funds this year.  The Office of the President will get P650 million.  The intelligence fund earmarked for the Philippine National Police (PNP) is P270 million; Department of National Defense (DND),  P111.5 million; and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), P31.24 million.

The budget of the DND this year amounts to P43.6 billion. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will get P46.04 billion.

Anti-VAT, too

Ramirez, a college senior from the University of the Philippines (UP), also opposed the imposition of a hike on the Value-Added Tax (VAT) saying taxes do not translate to social services such as education, health and housing.

“Isn’t it appalling for Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo to tax anew the poor majority so as not to default on debt payments? The Filipino youth and the people in general do not get their fair share in the nation’s wealth.  The national budget for this year reveals so much about her real priorities,” the NUSP president said

Overall, education spending remains a pittance compared to debt servicing and military expenditures. For the first time, the Department of Education (DepEd) will suffer a budget slash of P4.6 billion from last year’s allocation. The reduction is expected to even aggravate the public education crisis in terms of shortages in classrooms, desks, textbooks and teachers.

SCUs will have to do with P950 million less than the previous allocation.  The UP budget will bear the biggest slash amounting to P355.64 million. (See table below)

Because of the reduced subsidies, SCUs are even more compelled to increase tuition and other fees.

In UP, tuition increases have been imposed even under the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).  While in 1989, tuition was pegged at P17 per unit today it stands at P300 per unit. In 2001, tuition in the UP graduate school increased from P300 per unit to P500-P700 per unit.  In the state university’s five units, laboratory fees have also been jacked up. From the previous P0.00 to P50, these fees were increased to P500 to P600.

Processing fees

Meanwhile, in PUP processing fees were hiked by 67 to 100 percent.  The PUP administration also plans to increase tuition from P12 per unit to P88 per unit.  The Philippine Normal University (PNU) also increased its tuition by 400 percent in 2003.

Regional state universities also suffer tuition and other fee increases.  In Central Luzon State University (CLSU), for example, tuition and miscellaneous fees were hiked by 298 percent. At the Aklan Polytechnic Institute, tuition will increase by 400 percent in the next four years. The Ramon Magsaysay Technological University (RMTU) in Zambales raised its tuition from P80 to P150 per unit last year.  A P200 development fee is also collected from the students.

The Mindanao State University in General Santos City will raise its tuition from P50 to P150 per unit.  The University of Eastern Philippines (UEP) in Samar will also implement a tuition hike, from P40 per unit to P150 per unit.

The budgets cuts have reportedly driven thousands of state scholars from registering at the SCUs anymore because of higher tuition. They either join the increasing army of college dropouts or, particularly those whose families can afford it, enroll for two-year technical or vocational courses in quest of a job abroad.

Meanwhile, about 10,000 students from the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) in Manila walked out of their classes on Feb. 14. Wearing black, the students opposed the proposal to change the name of the university to Malayan Institute.

MIT, a top engineering school, is owned by the Yuchengco Group of Companies. The Yuchengcos own the Malayan Insurance and Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, among others.  The school is listed among the top 1,000 corporations in 2003 with P28.7-million profit. Bulatlat

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