Revenue from tax bill to fund free tuition

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Revenue gain from the Senate version of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) measure will fund implementation of the free-tuition law that needs P51 billion, according to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).

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Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the sub-committee of the Senate Committee on Finance tackling the budget of the public education sector, on Friday said the Senate’s Train bill “specifically allocated the revenue gain from the proposed tax reform measure to the implementation of the Free Tuition Law.”

CHEd Chairman Patricia Licuanan said the commission’s proposed budget of P12.4 billion for 2018 does not include the needed funding for the implementation of free tuition in state universities and colleges [SUCs], pending the Implementing Rules and Regulations [IRR] of the law.

“Maybe you can start looking [for funds],” Licuanan told the sub-committee.

The needed P51 million budget will fund free tuition in all 112 SUCs; 18 local universities and colleges (LUCs); technical-vocational (tech-voc) schools; tertiary education subsidy; and the national student loan program.

She gave the following breakdown: P22.6 billion for free tuition and other school fees, P7 billion for tech-voc education, P21.6 billion for tertiary education subsidy, P.05 billion for the national student loan program, and P100 million for administrative costs.

During the budget hearing of CHEd on Thursday, Licuanan said the IRR is expected to be out in October, and that the funding requirement is approximately P51 billion to cover the free tuition in 111 SUCs and the University of the Philippines, 16 accredited LUCs (local universities and colleges), tech-voc institutions and financial support to poor students.

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means, headed by Angara, listed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education in the earmarking provision of Train or Senate Bill 1592 to ensure its funding and sustained implementation.

“We want to ensure that whatever is collected from this measure actually goes to more accessible healthcare and education, more affordable food and the feeding program, efficient public transportation, as well as increased job opportunities,” he said.

The Senate added P10 million to the capital outlay budget of each SUC—totaling approximately P1.2 billion—to fund the improvement of their infrastructure and facilities.

Angara said such increase was approved by the finance committee chairman, Sen. Loren Legarda, and decided together with Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Joel Villanueva, Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay.

“Our SUCs are expecting an increase in enrollment due to the free college tuition law. Ang dagdag na pondo na ito ay para masiguro na may sapat, matibay at magandang imprastruktura at pasilidad ang ating mga kolehiyo at unibersidad para sa mga benepisyaryo ng free tertiary education [This additional funding will ensure that there will be enough and better infrastructure and facilities in our colleges and universities for the beneficiaries of free tertiary education],” he added.

“The Train [bill]will help build not only the country’s physical infrastructure, but also its human infrastructure. When the poor have access to education, healthcare and social services, they gain better opportunities, leading to better incomes for their families,” Angara said.

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