Joined by tens of thousands of youth and students, teachers, employees, and enlightened school administrators, yesterday’s culmination of the weeklong nationwide campus strikes is a just act against the Aquino regime’s budget cuts for education and social services.
Here in Iloilo, half a thousand students and teachers from the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV), Western Visayas College of Science and Technology (WVCST) and West Visayas State University (WVSU) marched to the Iloilo Provincial Capitol to push for a higher budget for education and social services.
The Filipino youth and people are angry because the Aquino regime-approved budget proposed to Congress only allocated P21.89 billion for the country’s 110 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) even if they need P45.90 billion for their operations. Here in Panay, the following SUCs will suffer cuts in their funding:
- Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College (NIPSC): P5,156,000 cut in Total Budget
- Western Visayas College of Science & Technology (WVCST): P3,164,000 cut in Personal Services
- West Visayas State University (WVSU): P3,761,000 cut in Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses
- Aklan State University: P9,151,000 cut in Total Budget
- Guimaras State College: P38,000 cut in Total Budget
- University of the Philippines (UP): P208 million cut in Total Budget
President Aquino’s gradual reduction of “subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent,” as stated in his 2011 Budget Message and as reaffirmed in the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan forces SUCs to impose austerity measures and increase tuition and other fees due to lack of budget.
In essence, Aquino is shifting the burden of subsidizing education from the government to students and their families. In the year 2000, 87.74% of the SUCs budget comes from state subsidy. In the proposed 2012 budget, the share of state subsidy has been drastically reduced to 65.58%.
Consequently, UP Visayas is presently the most expensive tertiary school in the whole Visayas, with P1,000 per unit tuition. Government spending per student in WVSU also declined from P22,000 last year to P14,000 for 2012.
This brazen abandonment of the state’s financial responsibility to education and social services further deprives the ordinary Filipino worker and peasant the ability to improve their lives and sink them deeper into poverty amidst the spiraling prices of oil, basic goods, and utility services.
The combined basic and higher education budget is only 3% of the Gross Domestic Product, a far cry from the United Nations recommendation of 6% GDP spending for education. The end result is not surprising: quality declines as only 1 for every 10 grade 1 students graduate college. The UN states that 73% of the Filipino youth are out-of-school.
The slashes on social services thus exposes Aquino’s “matuwid na daan” and “kayo ang boss ko” rhetoric as a farce. For in the face of this grave neglect of social services, Aquino is allotting gigantic increases on military spending, debt servicing, and dole-outs through Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs).
The budget for CCTs rises from P10 billion in 2010, P29 billion in 2011, to a whopping P39 billion in 2012. Military spending will likewise increase to P113 billion from P104 billion. Worse than the Arroyo regime average of P48 billion a month, the Aquino regime spends P60 billion a month for foreign debt servicing. The US-controlled IMF-World Bank impose policies like cuts on social services to ensure that the government can pay for loans financing projects that have not benefitted the people.
With a President more worried about his romantic trials and a government more concerned about pleasing big business, hacienderos, and foreign powers, it becomes clear that mere changing of leaders through elections every few years do not guarantee genuine social change.
The problems we face are systemic. These are deeply rooted in unjust social structures of imperialism or the continued domination of the country’s economy, politics, and culture by foreign powers, feudalism or the monopoly of land by despotic landlords while millions of peasants do not till their own land and bureaucrat capitalism or the use of government by the ruling classes for their own selfish interests.
As the crisis of the world economy and Philippine society intensifies, more and more youth suffering from unemployment, low wages, expensive education, hunger and poverty must link arms with other sectors in an ever-widening mass movement.
The Filipino youth must offer their talents, skills, and intelligence to serve the people and lead the struggle for larger social transformations that will favor the workers, peasants, urban poor in the present if they are to have a bright future. ■