SEN. Sherwin T. Gatchalian over the weekend vowed to fight for retention of the P4-billion annual funding for state-run universities and colleges (SUCs) amid attempts in Congress to slash the allocation down to P1 billion in the proposed 2019
Gatchalian, in a radio interview on Sunday, admitted his concern was triggered on reviewing the proposed funding for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) next year.
“I saw two concerns [in the 2019 budget]. One, the reduction of the Tulong Dunong [State scholarship program] from almost P4 billion to about P1 billion and the capital outlay or funds for building new structures in the SUCs,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The senator pointed out that, “first, Tulong Dunong is used for cash-strapped students, who are now assured under the law of free tuition in SUCs, but who still need some support in terms of buying textbooks and doing school projects.
“This fund is used to support them…. Many students benefit from this, and it’s the SUCs that supervise the handling of this program, and it’s very important,” Gatchalian added.
Gatchalian traced the problem to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“Because of the [DBM’s] adjustment to cash-based budgeting, we have this funding problem. The school year is normally from June to April, and the budget [is] from January to December.
“We can see that the school year and the budget year run differently and because of this, the Tulong Dunong program suffered a cut,” he explained.
The senator said he discussed the matter with CHED Chairman Prospero E. de Vera III and one of the proposals is to provide exemption for Tulong Dunong and other scholarship programs due to their different calendar year.”
Gatchalian said there are other scholarship programs that students depend on, citing for instance those for medical students and graduate students. “But the Tulong Dunong is one of the biggest because it supports nearly 400,000 state scholars,” he added.
“I think there will not be much of a problem if we restore funding for state scholars,” the senator said.