PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte needs to weigh the cost of enacting a bill providing free tertiary education to students in state colleges and universities (SUCs) before deciding the measure’s fate, Malacañang said on Thursday.
In a press conference, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said Duterte remained committed to making life better for the Filipino people, pointing to the administration’s programs as proofs.
But Banaag said Duterte also needed to consider the government’s big expenses in other programs.
“The President would be asking from the economic managers if and when — how to go about [it]. You know, the President had always wanted to give a comfortable life. And it has always been reflected on the President’s programs [for the people],” she said.
“We’ve got lots of problem especially with the rehabilitation in Marawi and lots more problems about our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who will be brought home. Maraming gastos kaya maraming nire-reconsider din ang ating Pangulo on that matter [There are a lot of expenses so our President is considering these things],” Banaag added.
Duterte, in a media interview on Wednesday, said the bill was on his table and would decide on it by Saturday, the day it would lapse into law.
On Tuesday, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno admitted that the government could not shoulder the estimated budget requirements of the bill.
Banaag said Duterte also has to seek the advice of his economic managers before making his decision.
“If and when may mga advice na mahihirapan ang ating pamahalaan [there is advice that our government will have a hard time]to cope with it, then that he would consider that,” she said.
The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the final version of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in May, which will provide full tuition subsidy for students in 112 SUCs, local universities and colleges, and government-run technical-vocational schools.
Back in February, the country’s economic managers expressed opposition to the bill, saying it would benefit largely “non-poor students.”
The bill was submitted for Duterte’s signature on July 5. It will lapse into law on August 5 if the President does not take action on it.