MANILA, Philippines – The Senate finance committee decided to increase the proposed 2018 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) by a whopping P1.68 billion.
CHED is only proposing a total of P12.41 billion budget for next year, but the Senate panel wants additional funding for the expenses of state universities and colleges (SUCs) on infrastructure and equipment as well as free internet services.
Members of the Senate committee announced this as CHED defended its proposed budget on Thursday, September 21.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said each of the 112 SUCs in the country will receive 10 million for their capital outlay or the allocations for infrastructure and equipment. This is equal to around P1.12 billion.
Senate finance committee chairperson and Senator Loren Legarda then said each SUC will receive P5 million to get free internet access, equal to about P560 million.
This means the Senate finance committee approved a budget of P14.1 billion for CHED for 2018.
“We therefore deem the budgets of CHED, the SUCs submitted for plenary. Of course, [this is] augmented by the billions we discussed today – capital outlay of P10 million across the board and free Wi-Fi for all state universities and colleges,” said Legarda.
Where do the senators plan to get the additional funding?
Angara said they are eyeing the unused appropriations of the Department of Education (DepEd) 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.)
The DepEd, however, already explained that the delay in construction was caused by the intensive pre-construction assessment that was conducted in the areas where the new classrooms are set to be built.
No free tuition law fund yet
The approved P14.1 billion CHED budget, however, does not include the P51 billion needed to fund Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
CHED did not include allocations for it in their proposal because President Rodrigo Duterte was not expected to sign it into law given his economic managers’ opposition to the measure.
House appropriations committee chair Karlo Nograles is considering realigning with CHED the unused appropriations of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Agrarian Reform, and Department of Transportation.
Legarda also promised CHED that senators will find the best way to fund the free tuition law.
“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,” she said.
Culture mapping in Marawi
During the hearing, Legarda also asked CHED and the Mindanao State University (MSU) to conduct culture and heritage mapping in war-torn Marawi City. (READ: Mindanao State University reopens on August 22)
“I want to request CHED and MSU to please develop a program that would preserve the intangible and tangible heritage that were lost amidst the war, still ongoing in a few meters [away],” said Legarda.
The senator said the research program, which she wants to be implemented in 2018, can aid in Marawi residents’ rehabilitation.
“It’s like retrieving memories of the present and the past, which will be therapeutic, which will be historical, which will be cultural mapping, not just of Marawi City, but of Lake Lanao, which is really the most precious resource not just of Lanao del Sur but of other provinces,” said Legarda.
She said the output of this cultural mapping will serve as a reminder to Filipinos of what Marawi looked like before clashes between government troops and the Maute Group happened there.
The ongoing conflict led President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. – Rappler.com
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