The Senate Finance Committee has approved on Thursday (Sept. 19) the proposed 2020 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and 110 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in the country, following a subcommittee hearing led by Vice Chair Senator Pia S. Cayetano.
With the approval, CHED’s P40.78-billion proposed allocation for next year will be submitted for plenary deliberations, along with the P49.46-billion proposed budget for the 110 SUCs.
The committee, on the other hand, deferred the approval of the proposed P15.40-billion proposed funding for the University of the Philippines (UP), pending the institution’s submission of required documents to the committee for review.
Cayetano, the panel’s vice chair, has expressed commitment to review the major cuts in the higher education sector’s proposed funding, with the goal of finding a way to bridge the gap, which CHED officials pegged at P11 billion.
“The biggest concern of CHED and SUCs is that they have at least P11 billion [budget cut] that is meant to finance [various education programs]. Ito ang hahanapan natin ng pondo,” the senator said in an ambush interview after the hearing.
“These are [for] students who have previously been awarded scholarships, and then may incoming graduates din na mag-aavail [ng scholarships], so may shortage tayo diyan,” she further explained.
Cayetano said she is already looking into possible sources for the additional funding, among which are unobligated funds from the agencies’ 2019 budget.
“Ang ine-expect kong makuha doon sa mga hindi nagamit, mga unobligated [funds] nila is around P8 billion,” she said, clarifying that the amount is still subject to verification.
“We consider our human resources as the most important resource that we have. So their education is very important. I already have the source for funding. We just have to rationalize and prioritize projects,” she added.
The senator further pointed out that the country can still do better in terms of financing the education sector. She cited that the government is spending only 3.9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education, lower than the six-percent recommendation of the United Nations.
“Our Constitution requires that we prioritize education. Nasusunod naman natin na the biggest agency that receives funding is education. [But] if you compare our spending with other countries, medyo talo tayo. Mas mataas ang spending sa atin ng Laos at Vietnam,” Cayetano noted.
Furthermore, she clarified the status of UP’s budget, which the committee has deferred.
“On UP, humingi kasi ako ng development sa status ng projects, because a big portion of the higher education budget goes to UP. And I have been a big supporter [of UP’s budget] for many years,” the senator asserted.
“I just want them to properly explain to me what these programs are, the projects, the timelines, the status, so that tuloy-tuloy naman tayong makatulong sa UP at responsible naman tayo sa paglagay ng pondo,” she added.
During the hearing, Cayetano also vowed to provide additional government support in accelerating infrastructure development for SUCs. She filed Senate Bill No. 64 or the “Build, Build, Build” for Higher Education bill, which lays down a five-year capital outlay plan for state-run higher education institutions.#