MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senators are adding a whopping P1.2 billion to the budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs) in 2018 to fund their infrastructure and equipment expenses or capital outlay.
This was announced on Thursday, September 21, as CHEd defended its proposed P12.41 billion budget before the Senate finance committee.
“With approval of the chair, we will add P10 million [each] for capital outlay for all SUCs,” said Senator Juan Edgardo Angara during the hearing.
With 112 SUCs in the country, the additional funding would total about P1.2 billion.
Angara’s announcement was met by applause and cheers from school officials who were watching the hearing at the Senate Session Hall.
Finance committee chair and Senator Loren Legarda told CHED chair Patricia Licuanan that the additional budget was decided during a huddle with Senators Angara, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Joel Villanueva, and Juan Miguel Zubiri on the sidelines of the hearing.
“You actually have P5 million across the board for all SUCs this year. I hope you have utilized it, obligated it for this year,” said Legarda.
In an interview with reporters, Angara said senators are considering realigning the unused appropriations under the Department of Education’s unused appropriations under its Basic Education Facilities Fund.
“Hindi pa nila nagagastos ‘yong sa 2016 nila eh. So nake-carry over lang ‘yong pondo. So ‘yon, puwedeng pagkunan ‘yon,” said Angara.
(They haven’t spent their appropriations from 2016. So that amount is being carried over only. We can get the funding from there.)
DepEd, however, already explained that the delay in construction was caused by the intensive pre-construction assessment that was conducted on the areas where the new classrooms are set to be built.
CHED’s proposed budget for 2018 does not include appropriations for the implementation of Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. This is because President Rodrigo Duterte was not expected to sign it into law given his economic managers’ opposition to the measure.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the free tuition law needs P51 billion for its first year of implementation alone. (READ: What’s next after SUCs’ non-collection of tuition in the 1st semester?)
Lawmakers and senators are currently finding ways how to fund the free tuition law. House appropriations committee chair Karlo Nograles is considering realigning to CHED the unused appropriations of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Agrarian Reform, and Department of Transportation.
On Thursday, Legarda assured Licuanan that legislators will find a way to fund the free tuition law.
“So as you can see, it is a big challenge on our part that we were able to answer. We passed the law and without the P51 billion in the NEP (National Expenditure Program), we will find it and fund it so that all students will have free tertiary education,” said Legarda. – Rappler.com
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