LEGAZPI CITY―Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has welcomed the recent Malacañang announcement of an additional P6-billion fund for the celebrated Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, from a recent debt settlement by the Philippine Airlines with the government.
Republic Act 10931, the free tuition law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, was principally authored in the House of Representatives by Salceda. Doubts on whether the government can fund the program were doused after Congress realigned and allotted some P41 billion from the 2018 budget, a month after the new law was enacted.
Malacañang announced that the P6-billion settlement by PAL for debts the country’s flag carrier incurred from the 1970s to July 31, 2017 will fund the education of students in local and state universities and colleges under RA 10931.
“This shows us that the Duterte administration sincerely wants the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act to start off on the right foot next year,” said Salceda.
RA 10931 will usher in the Duterte administration’s “next wave social revolution in building a more egalitarian society” and “a most vital social legislation, second only to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion bill in terms of significance and permanence,” he added.
Free tuitions and miscellaneous fees in government run colleges and accredited technical vocational schools “is no longer a dream,” the lawmaker stressed.
Salceda is senior vice chair of the House committee on appropriations, which ironed out the 2018 budget for the new law.
RA 10931 provides for free tuition and miscellaneous expenses in state universities and colleges, local governments’ community colleges, techvoc schools under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and LGU-run Technical Vocational Education and Training Centers or TVET.
At the state-ran Bicol University in Albay’s second district, which Salceda represents, some 28,000 students stand to benefit from the measure with a subsidy of about P480 million per year. There are 114 SUCs and 16 LUCs accredited by the Commission on Higher Education and 122 technical vocational institutions accredited by TESDA in the country.
Salceda said he filed his version of the universal access to education bill, House Bill 2771, in July last year “to solve the continuing paradox that while college education helps us to escape poverty, Filipinos have to be rich to afford one.”
The measure was merged with the bills filed by party-list Reps. Antonio Tinio (ACT) and Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan).
The components of the breakthrough legislation include: Free Higher Education in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs); Free Technical-Vocational Education and Training in Post-Secondary Technical-Vocational Institutions; Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) for Filipino Students, and; Student Loan Program (SLP) for Tertiary Education.
Salceda said the program also provides for some P1.3 billion in student loans for those who belong to the lowest 30 percentile who may need additional financial resources in pursuing their college studies.
Aside from its mechanisms that provide all Filipinos equal opportunities to quality education in private and public educational institutions, HB 10931 also aims to prioritize academically able but poor students, ensure optimized utilization of government resources in education and recognize the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the tertiary educational system.
The new law drew much of its provisions from the Albay model on Universal Access to College Education program that Salceda pioneered when he was governor of his province for nine years.
The program had assisted some 88,888 students in completing their studies. Together with his other creative program initiatives, it has helped reduce Albay’s poverty incidence from 41 percent in 2007 to 15 percent today.