House panel realigns P40 billion to fund free education by 2018

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The House Committee on Appropriations has realigned billions from various agencies to fund the law providing free education in tertiary schools.

"We found P40 billion to fund the free higher education for 2018," said Committee Chair Karlo Nograles on Thursday.

Republic Act 10931, or the "Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act," gives full tuition subsidy for students in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and state-run technical-vocational schools.

The law also covers other school charges, provides subsidies or stipends for poor students, and offers a student loan program.

Nograles said the P30 billion came from the education department's school building program.

"Any area na meron nafo-foresee na meron problem sa pagpapatayo ng bagong classroom or building, we were able to carve out P30 billion pesos from that budget," he said.

[Translation:Any area where we foresee a problem in building new classrooms, we were able to carve out P30 billion from that budget.]

The committee also got P3 billion from the transportation department's EDSA Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Quezon Avenue BRT projects.

Another P6 billion came from various scholarships for SUCs under the Commission on Higher Education.

"Since this fund is going anyway to higher education," Nograles said.

Deductions were also made from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to complete the P40 billion.

Nograles said the amount will cover the free tuition and miscellaneous expenses for all SUCs accredited by CHED, including the University of the Philippines.

It will also cover the technical-vocational education in institutions accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The budget will also include a student loan program, which can be used by both SUCs and private schools.

Senate Committee on Ways and Means chair Sonny Angara said they are looking into underutilized budgets from various agencies, including the Department of Education.

The Senate on Thursday had approved a P10 million budget per SUC for next year, up from P5 million last year.

CHED Commissioner Prospero De Vera in August said around P20 billion will be needed to fully subsidize tuition fees and other fees in state tertiary schools for 2018, while CHED chair Patricia Licuanan said they need at least P50 billion.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he signed the law even though he was unsure where funding for the program would come from.

CNN Philippines' Ver Marcelo and Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.