THE government now knows where to get the P16 billion needed to implement the free college education program next year, according to Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, head of the House appropriations committee.
“Makakatulog na ng mahimbing ang ating Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte (President [Rodrigo] Duterte can now sleep soundly). Together with the Department of Budget and Management [DBM] and the Commission on Higher Education [CHEd], we have achieved a breakthrough and managed to identify at least P16 billion funds that would be readily available in time for the first semester enrollment next year,” Nograles said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
“We will be consolidating all scholarship funds and spending them according to Republic Act 10931 since this is the latest law that supersedes all other laws, and this law takes into consideration scholarships in SUCs [State Universities and Colleges], LUCs [Local Universities and Colleges], TVIs [Technical-Vocational Institutions] and even private colleges and universities,” the lawmaker said.
The President on August 3 signed RA 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” that gives full tuition subsidy for students in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges, and state-run technical-vocational schools.
Nograles said the P16 billion will come from various scholarship programs being implemented in different SUCs, CHEd and the departments of Health, Agriculture, Science and Technology and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Nograles met with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, CHEd Chairman Patricia Licuanan and CHEd commissioners and Tesda Secretary General Guiling Mamondiong to discuss the sources of funding.
However, he explained that the government will not be able to determine the exact amount needed for the implementation of the program next year because officials have yet to find out how many students will be enrolling.
“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 (how much is really needed). Is P16 billion enough or not?” Nograles said.
“If the required funding is over P16 billion, that’s when we will consider sourcing from departments and agencies that are underspending or underperforming,” the lawmaker added.
He estimated that the law’s implementing rules and regulations will be finished within 15 days.
Students from 114 SUCs, 16 LUCs accredited by CHED, and 122 TVIs under Tesda will benefit from the law, Nograles said.