For the first time in the history of the Philippines, free tuition fee for college education is indeed an accomplishment of the Duterte administration who once promised during the election period that they will improve the country’s education sectors with full support of the legislative department of the government.
Due to the realignment of P8.3 billion of the Senate in the 2017 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), students enrolled in State Universities and Colleges (SUC) do not have to pay their tuition fee starting next year. This additional budget will cover tuition fee of students in SUCs which was discussed during the Senate deliberations for the 2017 budget and was later approved by the Congress and Senate to be included in the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) under the administration of President Rody Duterte.
During the Lower and Upper House deliberations of the 2017 national budget, this proposed budget was questioned by Sen. Panfilo Lacson and named as a form of pork barrel because there were reports that the House lawmakers originally wanted to include the P8.3 billion in the DPWH budget to provide for development projects of the AUTONOMOUS Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), but senators wanted the fund allocated to the CHED instead.
The congressmen eventually conceded to the senators during the bicameral conference committee for the national budget.
CHED chairperson Patricia Licuanan said in an interview, “That’s purely for tuition fee, that’s purely to remove tuition from the student expenses. We cannot spend P8.3 billion on anything else except to compensate the schools for the fact that they can no longer charge tuition fees.”
She also added that CHED is working with other government agencies for the implementing guidelines on how to utilize the budget which will be part of the 2017 General Appropriations Act now awaiting the signature of President Duterte.
Licuanan also appended “Logistically, it will be difficult. How do you share, how do you divide the P8.3 billion with 113 SUCs (and the University of the Philippines), and what formula do you use? The implementation will be a bit of a challenge, but that’s the intention of the P8 billion.”
Napoleon Imperial, CHED deputy executive director, said that the commission would coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management to regard issues regarding fund utilization. He added, “CHED wants to ensure that the implementation / guidelines are defined properly to be able to manage the huge amount of funds accordingly.”
Kabataan Party -List Rep. Sarah Elago praised the allocation of the budget and called it a step in the right direction for SUCs. She also said, “This is a victory for the youth movement which has long fought for the right to education. This is great news for the nation’s youth and their families, especially the poor and the marginalized.”
She added, “I also call on student councils and student governments, as well as the regents and the trustees, to conduct student consultation summits to help shape and monitor the implementation of the tuition-free policy. We must do everything in our power to have it implemented quickly and with a positive effect on students and the SUC community. We do not expect this to be easy; we are fighting a decades-old problem that infected SUCs with the wrong notion on tuition. Some SUCs may insist on violating the spirit of the Congress decision, but we will patiently and unequivocally fight them.”
In a testimonial prepared by Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, chair of the Senate committee on education, arts, and culture – called the Senate’s initiative as a “major reform that will greatly benefit Filipino families.”
There has been a story published prior to the 2016 elections on the feasibility of a tuition-free policy as promised by several candidates then including Presidential candidate Grace Poe, and Senatorial candidates Sherwin Gatchalian and Walen Bello.
With this great news, students can now be stress-free in regard to their tuition fees because these calls will soon be answered by the government. This implementation is a great way of starting the promised improved education in our country which can be a big step towards becoming a solid and advanced nation.