December 16, 2017, 9:34 am
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3 agencies to get reduced budget to fund free tuition

THREE agencies may suffer budget cuts in 2018 to allow government to fund the newly signed free college education law, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said yesterday.

Nograles, House appropriations committee chair, said the Departments of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Transportation (DOTR) may have their budgets reduced for 2018 due to “low absorptive capacity and sluggish implementation of projects and programs.”

Nograles said on top of possible budget reductions, the three departments can potentially contribute at least P37.5 billion which can act as a standby fund once the free college education program is fully implemented in 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs), 16 local universities and colleges (LUCs) accredited by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and 122 technical-vocational institutions (TVIs) under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. 

The panel earlier found at least P16 billion in the proposed 2018 national budget to fund Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

Nograles said during the budget briefing of the DICT, he found out that the agency has unused appropriations amounting to P2.7 billion in 2016 and P2.695 billion in 2017.

“These funds will expire in December 31, 2017 and I doubt very much if DICT will be able to utilize these funds before the year ends. So instead of wasting these funds I would rather use the money to support the higher education law for free tuition and miscellaneous fees for students in SUCs, LUCs, TVIs,” he said.

Nograles said P5 billion can be sourced from DAR and P30 billion from DOTR.

He said DAR failed to utilize P6 billion in 2015 and failed to obligate P5 billion in 2016.

The DOTR, Nograles said, failed to utilize P33 billion in 2015 and has “so far failed to obligate P30 billion of its budget allocation” in 2016.

Nograles, however, said since some of the unused allocations were programmed under the 2015 appropriations, these have already expired and reverted to the national treasury.

The unused funds for the 2016 appropriations, on the other hand, will expire in December of this year.

While it cannot be tapped for the 2018 national expenditure program, it can be programmed for spending under a supplemental budget, Nograles said.

“The 2016 funds are still alive and set to expire on December 31, 2017. At this point in time I am very doubtful they will be able to utilize those funds. So I am looking at considering these funds as savings and writing a supplemental budget to use as standby fund for the free higher education law,” he said.

The DICT has submitted a P6.87-billion budget request for 2018. The DOTR is asking for P73.8 billion while the Department of Agrarian reform is seeking P10.3 billion.

“Based on their spending pattern, we now know where to make the cuts. At least for now, we have a standby source of at least P37.5 billion which can be made available through supplemental budget in case we still fall short of the needed funds to support the free college education law,” Nograles said.
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