Youth groups give solons “assignment” before recess Congress told to prioritize education over debt service for 2012 budget
Quezon City, Philippines – Members of Youth Against Debt (YAD) staged a creative action in front of the House of Representatives to give lawmakers an assignment to address the sad state of education in the country before Congress goes into recess.
The assignment: re-channel the humongous debt service to education budget.
The protest action by YAD – a coalition of different youth and student groups and organizations – coincides with the first day of classes in elementary and high school and the last week before the House of Representatives goes into recess.
The House is expected to reconvene on the last week of July, during which it will begin the deliberations for the 2012 national government budget.
Failing the Standards
Citing data collated by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), YAD said that Aquino’s education spending this year amounts only 2.44% of the Gross National Product (GNP), “still way below the recommendation of the Delors Commission under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of 6% of GNP.”
The same FDC data reveals that the average education expenditures as percentage of GNP of previous administrations are as follows: (Cory) Aquino, 2.74%; Ramos, 3.10%; Estrada, 2.89%; and, Arroyo, 2.10%.
“The current targets to address shortages in teachers, classrooms, chairs and textbooks will just only be mere propaganda to mask the sad truth about the Philippine educational system unless debt servicing will be de-emphasized over the education budget,” YAD Spokesperson Elmer Arisgado said.
Arisgado revealed that as of 2011, the government admitted that it lacks around 100,000 teachers, 150,000 classrooms, 13.5 million chairs and 95.5 million textbooks to ensure quality education.
“In the tertiary level, several private higher education institutions increased their tuition fees while state universities and colleges hiked their miscellaneous fees. This is contrary to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) assurance that there will be no increase of fees in the SUC’s,” Arisgado added.
As part of its main campaign for re-channeling debt service budget to social services such as education, YAD proposes an automatic appropriation for education pegged at 6% of the projected GNP, as required by the Delors Commission standard.
Debt versus Education
Arisgado said that the main reason why international standards for education are not met is the “humongous debt service” due to the Marcos-era automatic appropriations law.
“Section 31(B) Presidential Decree 1177 remains to be the worst stumbling block for investing in education. It is the same provision responsible as to why we are allocating this year only P271.67 billion for education while we are earmarking P357.09 billion for interest payment,” Arisgado added.
Arisgado claimed that this is a clear violation of Article XIV, Section 5(5) of the 1987 Constitution which states that education shall have the highest allocation in the national budget.
““As long as we emphasize debt servicing over social services, the administration will still be short in their targets for their so-called ‘modernization” of the education system’,” Arisgado concluded.-30-