VARIOUS student groups under the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) are gearing up for a series of protest actions against the cut in government spending for state universities and colleges (SUC) next year.

Vanessa Faye Bolibol, NUSP Secretary General, said they will troop to Congress today, Wednesday, to protest the budget cut, adding that their move is designed to pressure lawmakers into restoring the allocation.

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“The Aquino government touts itself as the champion of social change. How can it claim to be so if the government fails to guarantee our right to education,” Bolibol asked.

In the proposed 2011 National Budget, there will be a 1.7 percent decline in the 2011 budget for the 112 SUCs nationwide. This year the government allocated P23.8 billion for the state-run higher education institutions.

The University of the Philippines (UP) will receive a whooping P1.39 billion slash in budget, from P6.9 billion in 2010 to P5.5 in 2011.

The Philippine Normal University (PNU) will get a P92 million budget cut, from P387, 233,000 this year to P295,880,000 next academic year.

The Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) received a P150 million cut in its budget compared to its 2009 budget: from P819, 541,000 last year to 72,652,000 in 2011.

PUP has the largest number of students among the SUCs with more than 50,000.

In his budget message, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said: “We are gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their income and to utilize it for their programs and projects.”

But the NUSP said the budget cut may even be used as an opportunity by school administrators to increase tuition and other fees to the detriment of poor students.

“Reduction of state funding to SUCs served as the rationale of school administrators to device income-generating mechanisms such as increasing the tuition and other school fees,” Bolibol added.

Zero-budget for 2011

Meanwhile, Aquino administration did not give any allocation for Presidential Anti Graft Commission (PAGC) and Presidential Anti Smuggling Group (PASG) in the proposed national budget for 2011.

Presidential aide Ricky Carandang confirmed that the two agencies received no budget based on the recommendation of the Department of Budget and Management.

“PASG and PAGC budgets for 2011 are zero according to DBM,” he said.

The two agencies have been criticized for supposedly having overlapping duties with other agencies like the Bureau of Customs. (AH/Jill Beltran/Sunnex)