SENATOR Panfilo Lacson on Sunday suggested removing pork barrel funds from next year’s budget and instead use them to finance the recently passed law providing free tuition to state universities and colleges.
He told dzbb radio that Congress should look for ways to finance the free tuition for public college and university students now that there was an implementing law for it.
“Malacañang put no budget [for the free tuition], so Congress will be the one to seek funding because there is now a law for it,” Lacson said.
He made his statement even as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III echoed Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno who said the Malacañang-approved Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act could be applied in the first semester of school year 2018-2019.
Dominguez said he agreed with Diokno when Diokno said it was one semester he was looking at, specifically the academic year 2018 and 2019.
“I agree with him. I agree with my chairman of the DBCC [Development Budget Coordination Committee]... I agree with him it is one semester we have to look at the budget,” Dominguez told reporters.
Senator Francis Escudero said some P14 billion will be allocated to State Colleges and Universities and another P1 billion will be earmarked for local universities and colleges.
He said the amount needed to finance the free tuition, miscellaneous and other fees of students in SUCs alone would only cost P20 billion, a mere 0.5 percent of the total proposed national budget for Fiscal Year 2018.
He said the full implementation of the law would only require around P43 billion, or a little over one percent of the proposed national budget for next year.
Lacson, meanwhile, expressed concern that the funds for the free tuition law might be sourced from agencies performing vital functions.
“Let us not deprive agencies requiring financing of needed funds,” Lacson said.
He suggested reallocating some of the discretionary funds of senators and congressmen.
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