MANILA, Philippines – Out of the P40.78 billion proposed Commission on Higher Education (Ched) budget for 2020, none has been allocated for its Tulong Dunong program, Ched chairman Prospero de Vera has revealed Tuesday during the commission’s budget briefing.
De Vera told lawmakers at the House of Representatives that this was a decision by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
He said they have observed that the DBM does not allocate funds to portions of an agency’s proposed budget which was realigned in the current year’s National Expenditure Program (NEP).
“Mr. Chairman, the practice of the DBM every year is that realignments of Congress in the NEP are not given allocations the next year. That is what we have noticed in the Commission,” he said, after being questioned by Albay 5th District Rep. Edcel Lagman.
“So we have zero allocation for Tulong Dunong in 2019, Congress realigned P2.6 billion, DBM did not put any money just like in the 2019 (budget),” De Vera said.
The Tulong Dunong is Ched’s program for students recommended by local government officials, regardless whether they are enrolled in a public or private university. Under it, students get a P12,000 financial assistance per year.
Ched previously said that around 350,00 students nationwide will be affected by a decrease in the Tulong Dunong funds.
During the budget deliberations of the 2019 NEP last December 2018, the Ched’s P3 billion budget for Tulong Dunong was realigned to its free tuition program, because of supposed anomalies in the way district representatives get to appoint the program’s beneficiaries.
Senator Panfilo Lacson even alleged before that some lawmakers are creating fake applications to get education grants.
However, Lagman stressed that De Vera’s statements are merely assumptions and even chided Ched for not asking the DBM why there was no budget set for 2020.
“We submit every year,” De Vera said in response to queries from Lagman if they even submitted a budget for the Tulong Dunong. “The budget of the previous year, they (DBM) made some additions, and when it comes back there are areas where there is no allocation.”
“I think Mr. Chair the DBM should be asked officially because we have cuts all over the place, and some of them we agree, some of them we don’t,” he added.
De Vera has assured that Tulong Dunong scholars will be transferred to the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) program, which is mandated by the Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
“The present scholars will now be under the Tertiary Education Subsidy. It simply means there would be no new Tulong Dunong scholars,” he said. /muf