‘House should find funds for free college program’

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The Senate will wait for the House of Representatives to identify sources of funding for the implementation of the free college program next year, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said on Saturday.

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Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said House members are looking at several options on how to fund the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931) that grants free tuition to students in state universities and colleges (SUC), local universities and colleges (LUCs), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda)-accredited institutions.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently signed the law but the funds for its implementation were not included in the 2018 national budget.

Angara admitted there will be challenges in implementing the program thus, the Executive branch, educational institutions and Congress should closely work together.

The House appropriations committee is looking at the various scholarship programs being implemented in different SUCs. The plan is to consolidate all scholarship program funds and spending them according to RA 10931.

“We will just wait for the House. They might come up with the proposal that will not require us to look for one, besides such proposal has to originate from them (House),” Angara said in an interview.

Angara added the finance department may also come up with a list of government programs to be funded by the first package of the Tax Reform and Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) bill currently being reviewed by his committee.

The first package includes amendments on the personal income tax expansion of value added tax (VAT) base and limiting VAT exemptions and automobile and petroleum excise tax.

Angara said his committee suggested that Department of Finance include the funding for the free college education program in its tax reform proposal in order to make it more acceptable to others.

“It could increase the acceptability of the other tax proposals and help the public realize that it’s going to be a worthwhile cause,” he added.

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