Act partylist hits deletion of P8-B free tuition in 2018 budget
Militant lawmakers representing teachers in Congress cried foul over the deletion in the proposed 2018 budget of the funds supposedly allocated for free higher education.
In a statement on Thursday, Act Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro said the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2018 does not include a special provision on the Higher Education Support Fund for state universities and colleges (SUCs) under the budgetary item of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).
This even though the 2017 General Appropriations Act included in the Special Provisions the P8.3 billion realigned from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) budget to CHEd for the Higher Education Support Fund to provide financial assistance to SUCs.
“The 2018 budget omitted provisions that will provide free tuition for all undergraduate and medical students from SUCs,” Tinio said.
“President (Rodrigo) Duterte’s economic managers consistently opposed the bill, then he himself subjected the P8.3 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,” he added.
Castro slammed the Duterte administration for taking back the free education fund it realigned from the ARMM budget last year.
She said the administration should instead increase the budget for tertiary education.
“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,” Castro said.
“But now we see that the President’s promise to make higher education free is just a bigay-bawi (they gave but they took it back),” she added.
Tinio called on Duterte to sign into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education law approved by Congress and transmitted to the President on July 5.
The bill for free tuition in SUCs was approved following the realignment in the 2017 budget of the P8.3 billion originally allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) development projects, to the CHEd to provide free tuition for SUCs.
Both the House and the Senate approved its version of the bill, which seeks to promote universal access to quality tertiary education by providing free tuition to SUCs and state-run technical vocation schools.
According to the 2018 NEP, the CHEd has an allotted budget of P12.415 billion, down from the P18.705 billion approved budget in the 2017 GAA. JPV
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