BAGUIO CITY (Sept. 29) — As the University of the Philippines students are threatened with tuition and more fees academic, non-academic personnel and students staged a protest at the UPB parking lot while the UP Board of Regents (BOR) meeting was going on.
The Ugnayang Multi-Sektoral Laban Sa Komersyalisasyon Ng Edukasyon (Umaksyon), an alliance spearheaded by three UPB institutions – the University Student Council (USC), Council of Leaders (CL) and official publication OutcroP, called on the attention of the BOR.
UP President Ermelinda Roman talked to the protesters in an impromptu open forum after Ben Ibarra Fernandez, UPB-USC chair, talked to UPB Chancellor Priscilla Macansantos for clarification. Roman stressed that the more school fees should not be treated as a burden to students.
Roman said, “Today’s age of digital generation and technology is a delivery mechanism that would help students to cope,” and to have technological advancement is through increases, which the students contested.
“The government should not pass the responsibility of education subsidy to the students themselves,” said Pinky Lim, USC vice chair, as she emphasized that the BOR should pressure the government for higher state subsidy rather than increasing the fees.
Roman said the BOR has asked Congress to consider UP’s budget needs. From the proposed P8.5 billion UP budget for 2007, only P4 billion was approved, thus the need to look for “own resources is really on call,” Roman explained. She added that the idle land assets of UP must be commercially productive. Out 24,000 hectares of UP-owned land, only 4,000 are productive; Roman stressed that these “idle assets must be developed to be financially generating resources for UP use.”
Keidy Transfiguracion, CL head, claimed that selling these “idle assets” to corporations, for example, is actually a subliminal to commercialize UP. She added, “The government should increase our (UP) budget instead than allocate P114.1 billion to its anti-terrorist plan.”
Anne Kathleen Payos, Outcrop associate editor, said that if the UP system allows such increases, other state colleges and universities might follow suit rationalizing tuition and other fee increases.
Student Regent Raffy Jones Sanchez assured the UPB community that he would let the other regents realize and not tolerate “insensitivity to the current economic crisis of the country”.
Protesters chanted, “Yes to Better UP, No to TOFI.” The Tanghalang Bayan ng Kabataan sa Baguio performed the song “Pauwi Sa Amin” (Bong Ramilo) that is about a student, only a year shy from graduating, has to go home and help farm because education had become too expensive.
Student groups and organizations stayed behind and expressed their opposition to TOFI through focus group discussions and signing a unity banner stating “Umaksyon Laban sa Komersalisasyon ng Edukasyon.”
SR Sanchez disclosed some highlights of the BOR meeting. He pointed out (1) that the UP chancellors agreed to scrap the late registration fee. However, when the BOR counter-proposed limiting the registration period, he deferred approval; (2) that the BOR must ensure that enforced disappearance of UP students won’t happen again through cautiously picking the Joint Monitoring Group in UP; (3) that the other UP units allow usage of university facilities & resources during days off; and (4) that the “Bad Egg Issue” regarding UP Diliman USC’s behavior towards General Hermogenes Esperon is nothing but “an extraordinary protest against a very irregular situation.”
UPB students were provoked as Esperon likened government critics to the rebels’ armed struggle. “It is not as though we no longer want intellectual discourses, it’s just that the AFP and PNP are as if flaunting justifications of the irregular situation of today’s political killings,” Sanchez said.
UPB faces additional fees
According to Fernandez, the College of Science (CS) is facing proposals for additional fees. One proposal from the Department of Biology asked to have a P350 thesis fee per semester.
In a letter to the USC from the CS-Biology, students said, “Expenses charged to laboratory funds include purchase of specimens, prepared microscope slides, glass wares, fieldtrips and other incidental expenses. These lab expenses are not subsidized by the UP system.”
Another proposed P400 lab fee for Mathematics 101.1 (elementary statistics-lab) starting 2nd semester, AY 2006-2007. Math dept. chair Prof. Jerico Bacani’s letter said the “proposed fee will cover repair, maintenance and upgrading the computer laboratory, as well as other expenses related to the lab operations.”
“This is the first time that the Biology department is having the undergraduate thesis program (for AY ’06-’07). We (USC) recognize the need for the laboratory fees for the improvement of the Science courses. However, although the fees have not yet been implemented, we are still vigilant that the fees should be decreased as most students could not afford any more fees or scrapped, instead the subsidy be increased to respond to the additional needs of thesis students,” Fernandez further explained.
He also disclosed that on October 2, during the CS assembly, the departments involved and the students would review the fee proposals.
Meanwhile, to respond to the anti-TOFI campaign of UPB, Umaksyon-UPB had a series of build-up activities prior to the BOR meeting. The USC posted a photo exhibit that illustrated the resistance of UP students against TOFI since 1989.
Umaksyon conveners also plan to reach out to and gather support from other Baguio schools as all students are affected with tuition and other fees increases, Transfiguracion said.
The Umaksyon alliance was first formed in May at the UP Diliman with participation from all the university student councils of the UP system. UP Baguio started in September to convene its community regarding education issues. # Pink-Jean Fangon Melegrito for NORDIS