April 23, 2014     Philippines
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August 15, 2013
Debt servicing still tops education budget – ACT

While it is true that education has gotten the biggest allocation so far in the proposed 2014 national budget, it still does not comply with the constitutional mandate that education should get the biggest allotment nor does it meet the UN standard of six percent of the GDP. – Alliance of Concerned Teachers

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Misleading. This is how the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) describes the recent report that the Department of Education has been allotted the biggest budget so far in the proposed 2014 national budget.

In a news report, Malacañang has proposed a P336.9 billion ($7.703 billion) budget for education. The proposed DepEd budget for 2014 is 14.8 percent higher than this year’s P293.4 billion ($6.699 billion). “The DepEd’s funding has breached the P300 billion ($6.859 billion) mark for the first time,” the report read.

Benjamin Valbuena, national president of ACT, said the budget for foreign debt servicing is still much higher than that for education. “The 40 percent of the national budget is automatically appropriated for debt servicing while the education sector has only 12 to 15 percent appropriation. So who’s got the bigger budget?” Valbuena said over phone interview with Bulatlat.com.

According to news reports, debt servicing remains as the biggest allocation in the 2014 proposed national budget. A whopping P791.5 billion ($18.097 billion) is allocated for public debt servicing or 34 percent of next year’s budget. “The government is planning to pay P352.7 billion ($8.064 billion) in interest – P248.4 ($5.679 billion) for domestic debt and P104.3 billion ($2.384 billion) for foreign borrowings. Total interest payments for next year is 5.6 percent higher than the P333.9 billion ($7.634 billion) programmed for this year,” the report said.

“It is true that the proposed budget is the biggest so far of the DepEd, but it is still does not meet the Constitutional mandate that the education sector should be allotted the biggest share of the national budget. Foreign debt servicing is still the number one priority in the 2014 national budget,” France Castro, secretary general of ACT also said in an email to Bulatlat.com.

Castro also pointed out that the proposed budget for education for 2014 still does not meet the UN standard of six percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

No increases for teachers and non-teaching personnel

Valbuena added that the increase in the DepEd’s budget is a welcome development, however it does not include the salary upgrading for teachers’ and non-teaching personnel.

“It is saddening that despite the increases (in the national budget); there will be no salary increase for teachers and non-teaching personnel. Budget secretary Florencio Abad had already said that there will be no increase in government employees’ salaries,” Valbuena said.

He also criticized the huge discretionary funds allotted to President Benigno S. Aquino III. “There is money for the President’s intelligence and discretionary funds, but not for the salary of teachers and non-teaching personnel. He even distributed new guns for the police, but no salary increase for us.”

Immediately address shortages

The teachers also challenged DepEd to immediately address the shortages and backlogs with the increase in the department’s budget. “With that increase, the shortages and backlogs should be addressed,” said Valbuena.

Castro also said that DepEd should also address the lack of modules for teachers and textbooks for grade two students.

Since the implementation of the K to 12 program, teachers of grades one and two, seven and eight said the modules are still incomplete. Castro said many teachers are complaining about the lack of teaching guides and learning materials for the implementation of the K to 12 curriculum. She also said that up to now, students are still using old textbooks despite the implementation of the new curriculum.

There is still also huge number of shortages in the public school system according to the data of DepEd. Water and sanitation facilities are lacking by 108,227 and teachers by 43,204. The 66,800 shortages in classrooms are “almost addressed” according to DepEd Assistant Secretary for Planning Jesus Mateo.

“The backlogs in our public schools are long overdue; with that budget the DepEd should immediately address that,” Castro said. (http://bulatlat.com)

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