June 30, 2010
Fore-fronting the inauguration of President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III today is a call from Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino to re-channel funds from some items in the Office of the President’s budget to an emergency budget allocation for education.
“Pres. Aquino can start resolving the education crisis by allotting an emergency budget for education as soon as he takes office today. The sector is beset with problems that cannot wait to be resolved by the 2011 budget proposals and deliberations which start in August or September,” Palatino said.
The youth solon pointed to the condition of state colleges and universities (SUCs) such as the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and University of the Philippines (UP) which are in dire need of “rescuing.”
For the present academic year, PUP accepted around 17,000 freshman enrollees this June yet its annual budget can only accommodate 10,000 new students.
“As we speak, the university is at a loss on how to provide more classrooms and facilities, as well as employ more faculty for the needs of the entire student population. We have been receiving reports that the classroom to student ratio in PUP has reached almost 1:80 or more since the start of classes. PUP freshmen and their parents are forced to endure this miserable state because they could not afford to transfer,” he said.
Tuition in PUP is lowest at P12 per unit.
Meanwhile, UP’s measly budget has forced yet a fresh spate of laboratory fee increases.
In UP Diliman and Visayas Cebu College, the UP Board of Regents has recently approved increases in 38 lab fees and the imposition of 15 new lab fees for AY 2010-2011.
“These are results of yearly budget cuts suffered by SUCs. These can be immediately resolved if Pres. Aquino agrees to sacrifice some items funded for in the Office of the President.”
Every year, the OP has a Contingent Fund worth P640 million. This fund was used mainly by outgoing Pres. Arroyo for her numerous trips and junkets. “If this fund has already understandably been used up by Arroyo, there are still other items from which the emergency allocation can come.”
Among them, Palatino enumerated, are the intelligence funds directly managed under the OP (P650 million), funds for the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission whose functions are not specified (P1.748 million) and the budget for the maintenance of the presidential jet (P1.2 million).
“Allocation of an emergency fund is a band-aid solution to problems that need ‘first aid.’ In the long run, Pres. Aquino should keep in mind his promise to allot six percent of the Gross Domestic Product to the education budget,” he said.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommends that at least six percent of the GDP be allocated to education.