Posted on November 3, 2016
This Education Summit plays an integral role in our pursuit for real change. Education is important because it equips individuals with the necessary tools to succeed in life and levels the socio-economic playing field. Malcolm X famously said: “education is our passport to the future; for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
So if the Philippines is to become a land of opportunity, where anyone, even the poorest of the poor, could succeed, then we must craft and execute education policies that rightfully address the gaps in the current system.
I am proud to announce that the Department of Budget and Management, which I head, holds its end of the bargain. The proposed National Budget for 2017, which has already been approved by the Lower House, allocates P650 billion for education. And we would like to thank the House of Representatives for passing the national budget in record time of seven weeks. The next stop of the 2017 budget is the Philippine Senate.
The P650 billion for education represents 20 percent of the National Budget. It is also 30 percent higher than last year’s allocation.
We have a young population and it is the appropriate role of government to prepare the young Filipinos for the future, to develop them into an agile, competent and productive workforce.
The Department of Education alone will receive P567 billion, by far the biggest item in the national budget. It will finance the recruitment of new teachers, the construction and improvement 47,500 classrooms, the upgrading of teaching skills, the acquisition of learning materials, and others.
With an adequately funded Deped, our objective of universal basic education, including the full implementation of the K-12 Program, is closer to reality.
Meanwhile, tertiary education is allocated P75 billion, with majority of the allocation going to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and CHED. This is a 22 percent increase from this year’s allocation. We expect that the higher provision will allow more students access to quality college education.
We also do not forget about technical-vocational education. TESDA will have P6.87 billion, P10 million higher than its 2016 budget. The TESDA budget will be used to mold some Filipinos into skilled members of the labor force. This will further boost our aims of poverty reduction and employment generation.
But securing funding is a necessary but not sufficient condition in our efforts to put new life into the Philippine educational system. The challenge is how to translate the budget authorization into goods and services that benefit our people. In short, the ultimate challenge is execution.
In this connection, I am proud to report that we, at the DBM, have already instituted reforms to fast-track implementation.
First, I have reinstated the What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get Policy (WYSIWYG), which I initiated 18 years ago, but was quickly abandoned by the Arroyo and Aquino administrations. Under the WYSIWYG policy, the General Appropriations Act (GAA) will serve as release document. This will enable agency heads to immediately execute their programs and projects without waiting for the issuance of the advice of allotments.
Second, we have simplified the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRRs) of the Government Procurement Reform Act, which has been wrongly blamed for delays in project implementation. In response to some perceived criticisms, we have already revised them.
In addition, we have institutionalized “Procurement Short of Award”. National government agencies can already proceed with early procurement activities short of awarding contracts once the National Budget has been submitted to Congress. This will avoid unnecessary delays to project implementation.
Third, project monitoring will be strengthened by geo-tagging projects using modern technology like Google Maps and drones. Information technology systems will also be modernized. An example of this is the use of the Unified Account Code Structure (UACS) which harmonizes budgetary, treasury and accounting classifications.
In 54 digits, it is able to summarize the funding source, the organization, the location, and major final outputs among other bits of information. The UACS is being used by all departments of the National Government and Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCCs). As a long term goal, we envision an automated system that can trace budget accounts in real time.
Fourth, I am urging implementing agencies to upgrade their internal execution mechanisms to ensure that they keep in step with the sharp increases in their budgets. I would be lying if I don’t admit that my greatest fear is that we may not be able to spend the budget.
The proposed national budget is the largest budget that has ever been proposed. For perspective, it is three times as large as the National Budget ten years ago. This is partly due to our expansionary fiscal policy which is necessary to make up for past neglect in public spending for public infrastructure and investment in human capital.
The reality is that the Filipino people expect the government to convert these funds into useful programs, projects and activities. And for good reason: spending delayed is service denied. In the final analysis, we are accountable to the Filipino people and they deserve no less than our best efforts.
Ladies and gentlemen, the pursuit for real change is an uphill battle. We must work together for the improvement of our educational system, and ultimately, the change for the better of society and our people.