A Cabinet official on Tuesday slammed what he called "premature" criticisms of next year's budget for state universities and colleges, noting that allotment ceilings remain tentative and are subject to discussion.
"These pronouncements on the 2014 budget for SUCs are premature, not to mention misleading to the public," Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad said in statement.
Indicative budget ceilings, he added, "are by no means final and inflexible" and only serve as "guideposts" for agencies' budget formulation and "may even be subject to increases."
Related story: Business tycoon joins call for broader state education support
Abad cited as an example how the approved budget for state schools stood at P34.9 billion this year despite an budget ceiling set at P30.2 billion.
The Budget chief's statement came only a day after he claimed that the budget for government-run schools in 2013 had been increased significantly, contrary to budget cut complaints fueled by a state university student's suicide.
"To say that we decreased the budget for SUCs is grossly inaccurate," Abad said.
"As a matter of fact, the Aquino administration gave the sector a 44-percent budget boost over its 2012 allocation," he added.
Abad stressed that the University of the Philippines System received the highest part of P9.53 billion in new appropriations under the 2013 national budget.
Also read: Debate on state education rages
Militant groups have recently renewed calls for the government to increase support for state schools in the wake of the suicide of 16-year-old Kristel Tejada.
Tejada, a behavioral sciences freshman at the University of the Philippines Manila, took her own life Mar. 15, days after filing for leave of absence due to failure to pay tuition.
Wide protests have so far pushed the UP administration to lift its "no late payment" policy and vow reforms in its Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP).
Groups, however, continue to urge UP to scrap the STFAP, impose an across-the-board tuition rollback, and make accountable officials involved in Tejada's case.
Related slideshow: UP student's suicide sparks education debate