MANILA-- Parents of college student enrolled in public colleges can now heave a sigh of relief as the chair of the House Committee on Appropriations said Wednesday that needed funds for the implementation of Republic Act 10931 also known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act have already been identified.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said the breakthrough was achieved after meeting with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Patricia Licuanan and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) secretary general Guiling Mamondiong.
Together, we have achieved a breakthrough and managed to identify at least PHP16 billion in funds that would be readily available in time for the first-semester enrollment next year. Makakatulog na ng mahimbing ang ating Pangulong Duterte, Nograles said.
Duterte on Monday admitted that he signed the law granting free tuition in state-run universities, colleges, and technical-vocational schools despite funding concerns.
CHED officials have said that at least PHP16 billion is needed to implement the law while the DBM estimated that PHP100 billion is needed annually for its full implementation.
MalacaAang said that since the proposed 2018 budget is now in Congress, realignments have to be made to fund the free tuition law.
Nograles said the PHP16 billion would come from the scholarship funds that are integrated with various departments.
The various scholarships can be found in state universities and colleges (SUCs), CHED, TESDA, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Science and Technology, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The House leader said the various funds can be pooled together and consolidated for the full implementation of the law.
"We will be consolidating all scholarship funds and spending them according to RA 10931 since this is the latest law that supersedes all other laws. And this law takes into consideration scholarships in SUCs, LUCs, TVIs and even scholarships in private colleges and universities that are provided by the government," he said.
This does not even include additional funds that may be carved out of underperforming and under-spending agencies if needed, Nograles said.
In the meantime, the Davao City lawmaker said that it was agreed during the meeting that CHED and TESDA must come up with an accurate figure on the number of students who would benefit from the free higher education law so that the House Appropriations Committee can figure out how much is really needed to ensure its full implementation.
"We still need to come up with the total number of students who will benefit from this law, taking into account that for college next school year, there will be many seniors and freshmen coming in but fewer sophomores and juniors because of the K-12 program. This final number will determine magkano ba talaga kelangan. Is PHP 16 billion enough or not?" he said.
"But what's important right now is we know we have PHP16 billion and we have a source for this. If the required funding is over that amount, that's when we will consider sourcing from departments and agencies that are underspending or underperforming," Nograles said.
Source: Philippine News Agency