Gov’t assures free basic to college education amid budget cut

MANILA — Despite the slash in the proposed PHP3.7575-trillion national budget for next year in almost half of all government agencies, two government officials on Wednesday assured that the government will continue its commitment to provide free basic to college education.

During a media forum in Quezon City, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Officer-in-Charge Dr. Prospero “Popoy” de Vera III said the government will still be providing free education to indigents with the help of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

Tinutulungan ng RA 10391 (TRAIN Law) ang students na kung nakatungtung na sa kolehiyo, dagdag na subsidy ang ibinibigay sabeneficiaries ng 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) poor students yung nasa listahan ng DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) PHP40,000 per year o PHP4,000 stipend per month (RA 10391 helps the students who have entered college; they are given additional subsidy to 4Ps beneficiaries who are on the list of DSWD in the amount of PHP40,000 a year or PHP4,000 stipend a month),” de Vera said.

De Vera added that in the 2019 proposed budget, PHP16 billion was allocated exclusively for tertiary education.

The CHED chief said there are 112 state universities and 350 campuses nationwide, noting that 900,000 students have benefitted the PHP8-billion free tertiary education.

Meanwhile, House Committee on Appropriations Chair Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said only half of the PHP50 billion budget for free tuition and miscellaneous fees will be utilized this year.

“Free higher education was not part of the 2018 budget, but we passed the budget with the free higher education law, LUCs (Local Universities and Colleges) accredited by CHED and TESDA (Techical Education and Skills Development Authority)-run institutions,” Norgrales said.

He, however, added that that “continuing ang commitment sa libreng (in free) education from basic education to college education.”

The House official said they will find solutions to address the cut in the capital outlays of the state universities and colleges (SUCs).

“There’s a cash base budgeting all across departments. Tinamaan ang capital outlay — DepEd (Department of Education) classroom buildings slashed, health facilities ng DOH (Department of Health) slashed, DA (Department of Agriculture) capital incentive slashed, and all the capital outlays ng SUCs were slashed,” he said.

“DBM (Department of Budget and Management) looked into the absorptive capacity of the agency. Kapag mahina sila gumastos, kapag na-obligate na ang contract sa contractor, kapag na-obligate na, tali na ang pera within one year, tali na sa contractor, hindi na ma-return satreasury (When they spend slowly, when the contract was already obligated to the contractor, the money is already obligated to the contractor, it could not be returned to the treasury),” he added.