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Include funds for free higher education in 2018 -solons

27 July 2017 No Comment

ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro condemned the removal in the Duterte administration’s proposed 2018 budget of funds for free higher education.

“The 2018 budget omitted provisions that will provide free tuition for all undergraduate and medical students from SUCs. In fact, there is a ₱6.29 Billion budget cut for the CHED,” Tinio said.

In the 2017 General Appropriations Act, ₱8 Billion for free tuition and other school fees are included in the CHED budget as the Higher Education Support Program, covered by Special Provision 2. CHED is also allocated ₱3 Million for Cash Grants to Medical Students, covered by Special Provision 6. Special Provision 1 common to all state universities and colleges (SUCs) states that “SUCs are authorized to collect tuition fees and other necessary school charges in accordance with R.A. No. 8292: Provided, That starting the first semester of SY 2017-2018, no tuition fee shall be collected from undergraduate students. In lieu of the income from tuition fees, the SUCs shall be provided financial assistance from the Higher Education Support Program of the CHED.”

In the 2018 National Expenditure Program the President submitted to Congress, CHED’s Special Provisions 2 and 6 were not reiterated while the proviso on free tuition and the HESP in Special Provision 1 was deleted.

“President Duterte’s economic managers consistently opposed the bill, then he himself subjected the ₱8.3 Billion allocation in the 2017 budget to conditional implementation. And now, funds that are supposed to continue the free college program in 2018 are missing from his proposed budget,” said Tinio.

The solon also noted that President Duterte has not yet signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Bill approved by Congress. If signed into law, it would turn the one year program into a regular program of the government. According to the Senate and Lower House websites, it was transmitted to him on July 5.

“Instead of removing funds for free tuition and other school fees, the administration should even increase the allocation to ensure that tertiary education remains free in 2018 and that more youth can avail of it. It should even substantially increase SUCs’ budgets to ensure that what they offer is indeed quality education,” said Castro. “But now we see that the President’s promise to make higher education free is just a bigay-bawi.”

“This is a huge step backward for the administration, its dismissal of the people’s demand for higher budgets for education,” she added. “While the Philippine National Police, Department of National Defense, and Armed Forces of the Philippines are given hefty increases, higher education will suffer a tremendous budget cut. The Duterte administration should prioritize funding basic social services such as education instead of his wars against the people.”

“Now that the provisions for free tuition are deleted in the 2018 NEP, we need to further strengthen the campaign for free higher education,” Tinio added. “We have proven in the budget last year that the state can afford to allocate funds for education in the tertiary level.”

“We urge Congress to reinstate the provision providing free tuition for all undergraduate and medical students in the 2018 national budget. It supposedly has the power of the purse, so it should even take a step forward and significantly increase funds for free higher education. We also demand President Duterte to sign into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education bill,” Castro ended.###