2017 budget: CHED loses P2B meant for PCARI, K to 12 transition

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) decried a P2-billion ($41.59 million) budget cut from its proposed 2017 budget supposedly meant to fund an international research project and its K to 12 Transition Program.

In an October 19 statement signed by CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, the commission noted that the House of Representatives removed P1 billion ($20.79 million) each from the ongoing Philippine-California Advanced Research Institute (PCARI) project and the K to 12 Transition Program.

CHED proposed a 2017 budget of P13.37 billion ($278.05 million).

According to the commission, the proposed PCARI budget of P1.76 billion ($36.60 million) was meant to support 131 PCARI post-doctoral scholars and 35 new PCARI research and development proposals.

PCARI is a government-funded project under CHED that taps into the expertise of foreign universities to develop high-end research capabilities of Filipino scientists and researchers.

"PCARI seeks to address the low research and innovation productivity of the Philippines in comparison with neighboring countries, based on the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index," CHED's statement read.

The project became controversial in 2013 after former CHED commissioner Nona Ricafort claimed the project was "tailored-fit to [University of California] Berkeley which may encounter difficulty in the bidding process."

The Department of Science and Technology also did not immediately evaluate PCARI as required by law.

Activities under PCARI only started in 2015 despite annual budgetary allocations in 2013 and 2014.

About 15 Philippine higher education institutions are involved in PCARI's research and development projects which CHED said "address vital societal-scale problems and seek to develop capacity by supporting scholars who work on topics related to the research projects."

K to 12 transition

Lawmakers, according to CHED, also removed P1 billion from the K to 12 Transition Program meant to mitigate the impact of two additional years of basic education on the tertiary education sector.

The education department rolled out its Grade 11 nationwide last June. This resulted to a drop in college enrollment that is expected to last until school year 2020-2021.

But with the transition program, CHED said it has "successfully" minimized displacement of college workers from an estimated 9,000 personnel to "just 3,286."

Based on latest figures, more than 4,000 college faculty and staff received grants from CHED in the first semester of academic year 2016-2017. The program has a target of an additional 3,000 grantees for the second semester.

"Continued support is needed to provide cushion to [higher education institutions] and encourage them to place their affected faculty and staff in graduate studies, continuing professional education, or research activities instead of retrenchment," the commission said in the statement.

"Without sufficient funds, displacement numbers will increase drastically in 2017, with a P1-billion cut equivalent to a decrease in the coverage of about 2,463 faculty and staff."

In the next 5 years, CHED also hopes the K to 12 Transition Program can help increase from 50% to 70% the share of faculty members in the country with graduate degrees.

The commission urged Congress to restore the P2-billion budget it removed from both PCARI and the K to 12 Transition Program. 

It stressed that this reduction runs "counter to President Duterte's 10-point agenda that puts primacy on investments in human capital development – which begins foremost with faculty who are well-trained in their fields – as well as the promotion of science and technology to enhance innovation and creative capacity."

On Wednesday, October 19, the House of Representatives approved on 3rd and final reading the proposed P3.35-trillion ($69.67 billion) national budget for 2017.

While CHED suffered a P2-billion budget cut, House lawmakers restored the 2017 proposed maintenance and other operating expenses of several state universities and colleges. 

It even increased the budget of the University of the Philippines-Manila by P85 million ($1.77 million) for the modernization of the College of Dentistry's laboratories, the repair and rehabilitation of the College of Nursing building, and the purchase of generators.

The Senate will start deliberating on the budget bill on November 7. – Rappler.com

$1 = P48.09

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.