Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Philippine Government Draft Budget submitted to Congress on July 25, 2011 on the day of the State of the Nation Address

By Chanda Shahani

Amidst all the political theater engendered by President Benigno S. Aquino III's State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the halls of Congress yesterday as well as protests from disgruntled non-government organizations, people's organizations, activists, students and other citizens; the Aquino administration also quietly submitted to Congress its proposal for the National Budget on the same date (July 25, 2011).

A little-known annex to the SONA address, is the detailed technical report attached to the SONA (please see: http://www.gov.ph/2011/07/25/the-2011-state-of-the-nation-address-technical-report/) which is revealing in terms of what the Aquino government considers important enough to merit funding and what is of lesser importance - which barely gets a mention in the report.

The SONA and the accompanying technical report barely made any references to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). The annex mentions that "The 2012 Budget preparation is ahead of schedule, again, the first budget prepared ahead of schedule since 1998. As early as 30 December 2010, the DBM had already issued National Budget Memorandum (NBM) No. 107, s. 2010 providing all heads of departments, agencies, bureaus, offices, commissions, state universities and colleges, and other instrumentalities of the national government the overall policy framework and thrusts for the FY 2012 Budget. The NBM also set specific guidelines for the budget preparations." Beyond that, however, it is only primary schools and secondary schools that get mentioned in the SONA and the technical report. SUCs seem to be treated like a dirty little family secret: sort of like the mentally retarded brother or sister that family members speak about in hushed whispers (if at all).

The near non-mention of SUCs in the SONA and the technical report is indicative of the Aquino administration's lack on emphasis on giving importance to higher education in national development through suport for SUCs. The race has therefore begun for SUCs, including the University of the Philippines System to start lobbying Congress, twisting arms, calling in favors, and more-or-less making the case that U.P. and other SUCs are indispensable to national development and need to be funded adequately to meet these goals.

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