Lawmakers, groups protest in Congress for higher social services budget

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Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond 'Mong' Palatino. Contributed Photo
Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond 'Mong' Palatino. Contributed Photo

MANILA, Philippines – On the scheduled budget hearing of the Office of the President and the Department of Education today, lawmakers and members of sectoral groups protested in Congress calling for higher budget allocation for social services like education and health.

According to Kabataan Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino, “The Aquino government has made detrimental budget cuts to social services like education and health while it increased the budget for Public-private partnerships, Conditional Cash Transfer, intelligence funds, and other questionable budget items. The skewed budget prioritization of the Aquino government casts doubt to its avowed commitment for the people’s welfare.”

Palatino cited that in the proposed 2012 budget for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), there is a P250.9 million cut to the Maintenance and Other Operating Expensed (MOOE) of 45 SUCs; P403.3 million cut to Personal Services of 58 SUCs; and zero allocation for Capital Outlay of all SUCs.

He also said that for the health sector, the MOOE of twelve major NCR-based hospitals like the Philippine General Hospital, Philippine Heart Center, and National Kidney Institute was slashed by P70.8 million. The MOOE of hospitals outside of NCR was slashed by P363.7M

On the other hand, the budget for the controversial Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) increased by 86% or P18.3 billion; the budget for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) increased by P7.1 billion.

“Our call is for the re-channeling of funds from budget items that do not address the fundamental problems of our social services sector. The Aquino government should not focus on CCTs or PPPs and should instead fortify our social services. Doing that will benefit more Filipinos,” Palatino said.

Palatino also clarified that the boasted 15.2% or P31.5 billion increase in the budget of the Department of Education is deceiving for the increase will not sufficiently address the shortages of classrooms, teachers, chairs, and textbooks.

Palatino cited that out of the total 152,569 classrooms needed, the Aquino government only targeted 41,381 for 2012; 13,000 new teachers out of the 103,599 shortage; 2.47 million chairs out of the 13.2 million shortage; 45.5 million textbooks out of the 95.6 million shortage.

“Again, it is worth repeating, that the touted increase is not substantial to properly address the urgent needs of the basic education sector,” Palatino said.

The 2012 proposed budget for both SUCs and DepEd only translates to 3% of country’s GDP, far from the the 6% recommendation of UNESCO. The 2012 health budget, on the other hand, is a far cry from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of 5% GDP which translates to P440 billion instead of P42.7B proposed budget for 2012.

Palatino said that today’s protest marks the start of the people strikes for higher social services budget which will be staged from September 15-26, 2011.

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