The implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education (UAQTE) Law (Republic Act [RA] No. 10931) will not be affected by the implementation of National Budget Circular (NBC) No. 580, issued by the Department of Budget and Management. While the said Circular aims to partially generate the required amounts to implement the national policy to address the Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) situation, it also provides that programs, activities and projects that may be deferred are those items that are not likely to be implemented within the current fiscal year, FY 2020.
Records reveal that the obligation budget utilization rate (BUR) of the Commission on Higher Education for the implementation of the UAQTE is relatively low. In FY 2018, the BUR was recorded at 49% by yearend out of the P40-Billion allotments released to CHED. Meanwhile, the BUR for FY 2019 is only 32% as of yearend, out of the P28.027-Billion in allotments released to CHED.
The low BUR is due to the fact that the academic year of higher education institutions (HEIs) is asynchronous with the government’s fiscal year. This means that the funding requirement for the second semester of an academic year, although included in the appropriated budget for the fiscal year, will not be released within the same fiscal year since the second semester in most HEIs starts in a different calendar/fiscal year (i.e. January 2021 for the second semester of Academic Year 2020-2021).
Under the FY 2020 General Appropriations Act, the amount of P38.8-Billion is provided for the implementation of the UAQTE on top of the P19.06-Billion in unobligated allotment and P14.49-Billion in unreleased appropriations in FY 2019 continuing GAA. Adding all these funds together would make a total of P72.35-Billion for the implementation of the UAQTE Law in 2020.
Considering historical data on UAQTE fund utilization, only P11.98-Billion out of the P72.35-Billion available funding for the UAQTE in FY 2020 was reprogrammed for COVID-19 interventions. This includes P1.41-Billion from the FY 2019 unreleased appropriations and P10.57-Billion sourced from the FY 2020 appropriations that are intended for the second semester of AY 2020-2021 subsidy to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), as well as Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs). The requirements for the Second Semester of AY 2020-2021, which will start in January 2021, may be provided in the FY 2021 GAA, following the cash-based budgeting system.
The DBM assures everyone that P60.37-Billion is still available to cover the full implementation of the UAQTE Law in FY 2020.