Youth groups storm DBM to call for greater state subsidy to education, social services
Youth groups led by Kabataan Partylist stormed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in San Miguel, Manila on Monday, May 14 at around 11 a.m. to call on the budget agency to allocate higher funds for basic social services, including education and health, in the 2013 national budget.
As DBM consolidates and prepares the 2013 budget proposal, which will be presented to Congress after President Benigno Aquino III’s state of the nation address on July 23, the youth partylist enjoined the budget agency to consider the long-standing demand for greater state subsidy, particularly for state universities and colleges (SUCs).
“As we begin the budget process, we renew our call for greater state subsidy. The early stage of the budget process, which involves the consolidation of budget proposals of various government agencies by the DBM, is the most crucial part of the budget cycle, as in this part of the process, the room for revision and reform is much wider,” said Kabataan Partylist Spokesperson Vencer Crisostomo.
DBM required all government agencies to submit their budget proposals by April 9, and the budget agency is now consolidating the said documents into the National Expenditure Program, which is basically the draft of the General Appropriations Bill which will be discussed and legislated in Congress.
“As we experienced in the past, once the budget is in Congress, lawmakers are limited to rechanneling and slashing allocations. No new funds can be drawn, and no significant change can be made. And that is why it is important for us to engage the budget agency with our call for greater state subsidy while the ball is still in their court,” Crisostomo explained.
‘Rechannel military funds’
Kabataan Partylist slammed the continued government policy of allocating higher funds for the military than for social services such as the budget for health and SUCs.
In the National Budget Memorandum No. 113 released by DBM last January 31, the Department of Defense was given a budget ceiling of P123.78 billion, up by 8 percent from the current P114.4 billion allocation. Meanwhile, the Department of Health was only given a budget ceiling of 45.54 billion, while SUCs were given a budget ceiling of P30 billion.
Budget ceilings indicate the estimated amount that the government will allot to its agencies even before the complete budget proposal is made.
“Lagi’t lagi nating sinasabi na ang kailangan ng mamamayan ay hindi bala kundi libro at gamot. Pero sa simula pa lang ng proseso ng pagbabadyet, lantad na namang mas bibigyan ng priority ng gobyerno ang militar kaysa batayang serbisyo,” Crisostomo said.
Last year, the government allocated a total of P114.4 billion for defense, which is 6.3 percent of the total national budget. Meanwhile, SUCs were only given a total of P30.3 billion for 2012, an amount which includes the additional P4.2 billion given to SUCs from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Despite the additional fund from the DAP, the said allocation is only 66 percent of the P45.8 billion actual proposed budget of 112 SUCs in the country for 2012.
“With the P30-billion budget ceiling for SUCs for 2013, we fear that this may again result in budget cuts for SUCs,” Crisostomo said. “The Aquino administration’s sense of priority is clearly misdirected. While it is ready to allot hundreds of billions to the military, SUCs still receive only a fraction of their total need,” he added.
Higher military budget for war?
Crisostomo explained that the Aquino administration may explain the increase in allocation for defense due to the perceived military aggression from China due to the ongoing Scarborough Shoal issue. “For days, the Aquino regime has escalated its China scare tactics by posturing that a war may erupt between the Philippines and China. And the government might use this as an excuse to beef up funds for the military,” Crisostomo said.
“While we need to maintain a strong military force capable of defending our national sovereignty, it is but logical to first consider that the Filipino people need education, health and housing more than more guns and warships. The ongoing conflict between the Philippines and China should be resolved in a diplomatic manner, and not through war, which the Philippines clearly can’t afford,” Crisostomo added.
“At present, what we need is service, and not war. Instead of goading the country to war, the government should focus on improving basic social services. And this could be done if more funds will be allotted to education, health, housing and other basic services that our people need,” Crisostomo said.###