Students launch nationwide strike against SUCs budget cut
(This report was first published in print in issue 14 of the Philippine Collegian on 22 September 2011.)
by Isabella Patricia Borlaza
Thousands of students from various state universities and colleges (SUCs) all over the Philippines have staged a national strike this week against the impending cuts in the allocation for SUCs next year.
Since last week, various student formations and organizations nationwide have launched a series of walk-outs, unity marches, noise barrages and other creative demonstrations “to create an atmosphere of protest” aimed at pressuring the Aquino administration to allot higher funds for public tertiary education and other social services, said UP Student Regent Kristina Conti.
In November last year, a series of protests and demonstrations were also launched by various student groups to oppose the over P400-million cut in the 2011 budget for SUCs, culminating in a nationwide student strike.
“Strike two na ito ng rehimeng Aquino. Kung noong nakaraang taon, naipakita natin ang galit ng kabataan sa mga kaltas na ginagawa ng gobyerno, uulitin natin ito ngayong muli na namang babawasan ang pondo para sa edukasyon,” said Vanessa Faye Bolibol, secretary general of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.
For next year, the government will only allot P23.6 billion for all 110 SUCs in the country, a P146.6-million decrease from the current P23.7 billion. The P23.6 billion SUCs budget for 2012 is less than a third of the original P62-billion budget proposed by SUCs.
Fifty SUCs will sustain cuts in their budget for 2012, while 58 SUCs will suffer cuts in the personal services (PS) component of their budget, which is the fund used to pay for salaries and benefits of faculty and staff. Meanwhile, 45 SUCs will also sustain cuts in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) component of their budget.
The government has not allotted even a single peso for capital outlay (CO), the fund used for the construction of new buildings and facilities for all SUCs.
“We don’t see this merely as an issue of budget cuts or short time problems. We see this as a crisis, not merely of funding but of direction. Philippine education is moving towards a system where it is more commercialized, where education is becoming a privilege,” Conti said.
In the National Capital Region, SUCs and local colleges have organized simultaneous protests and plan to converge at Mendiola on September 23. Student groups in the Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon and other parts of the Philippines have also organized simultaneous walk-outs and demonstrations for the week.
The Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) kicked off the nationwide strike this week with a unity march that mobilized more than 8,000 students and faculty on September 20.
Catering to over 68,000 students, PUP proposed for a P2-billion budget for 2012, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only approved P 735 million.
“We strike back as we stand firm for our basic, fundamental rights and dignity as humans. In his administration’s new showing of its incompetence and absence of concern for the people, President Aquino passed a budget that is largely unresponsive to the needs of the people and insensitive to our condition,” said PUP Student Regent Rommel Aguilar.
‘UP strikes back’
Meanwhile, similar protest actions have also been launched by UP students, faculty and staff to denounce the impending P208-million cut in government subsidy for 2012.
Of the P17-billion budget that the UP administration proposed for next year, DBM approved only a third or P5.54 billion, constituting a 3.6 percent or P208.2 million decrease from the current P5.75 billion budget of the university.
“We must continue to demand increases in state subsidy for UP, increases in the pay of our faculty and the upgrading of our facilities deserving of a national university,” said UP President Alfredo Pascual.
In UP Diliman (UPD) and Los Baños, hundreds of students participated in walk-outs and unity marches that signaled the beginning of the strike week on September 21. In UP Manila, Visayas, Baguio and Mindanao, similar protest actions will be conducted starting September 22.
“Hangga’t hindi binibigay ng pamahalaan ang badyet na nararapat para sa mga pampublikong pamantasan at serbisyong panlipunan, hindi tayo titigil sa pagkilos – lalabas tayo sa ating mga klase, titigil tayo sa ating mga gawain kung kinakailangan, upang ipadama lang sa gobyerno ang ating galit sa kanilang kapabayaan,” said UPD University Student Council Chair Jemimah Garcia.●
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