President Rodrigo Duterte signed the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education” bill into law Thursday night (August 3), considering the long-term economic benefits of providing educational support to poor students.
“I am pleased to announce that last night, August 3, 2017, the President signed into law the enrolled bill,” Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced during the Mindanao Hour press briefing on Friday, August 4, at the Conrad Hotel.
Guevarra said that the bill, which came to the President’s desk nearly a month ago, became the subject of a lot of discussions because of its heavy budgetary implication.
“But free tertiary education in state universities and colleges is a very strong pillar or cornerstone of the President’s social development policy,” he said.
“So he weighed everything and came to the conclusion that the long-term benefits that will be derived from a well-developed tertiary education on the part of the citizenry will definitely outweigh any possible short-term budgetary challenges,” Guevarra explained.
With the passage of the law, Guevarra said they expect Congress to make the necessary appropriations to fund the long-term government program on free SUC education.
The bill’s passage will entail a reallocation of resources, particularly after the Office of the President submitted the National Expenditure Program for next year to Congress.
Other sources of funding for the free SUC education would be the official development assistance (ODA) and donations, both local and international entities, according to Guevarra.
The P100-billion estimate of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) appeared to be on the very high side because it is based on the assumption that all aspects of the free tuition bill will be implemented all at the same time.
He explained that the mandatory provisions of the bill only pertain to the free tuition and other fees pertaining to library, ID, and laboratory fees.
Educational expenses that will be under a certain subsidy is still to be established and administered by the UniFAST Board or the Unified Student Financial Assistance Program.
The bottom 20 percent or those who are really in need will be prioritized in terms of grant of subsidy for education-related expenses, Guevarra said.
Also during the same press briefing, Armed Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said the military is closing in on two barangays that are still occupied by the Maute group and its cohorts.
As the military operates in approximately less than one square kilometer, the fighting becomes more intense, complex and challenging, Padilla said.
But the priority is still to rescue the hostages being held by the terrorists as well as secure the remaining residents who did not abandon their homes.
While the AFP wants Marawi City residents to go home, they are still barred from returning because of the dangers posed by unexploded ordinance.
“Kaya kailangan po maintindihan ng ating mga kababayan na sa pagnanais nating maibigay at maibalik and siyudad ng Marawi sa kanila, hindi ganon kadali ito dahil po sa mga hinaharap na ‘yan,” Padilla said.
As the military addresses the conflict in Marawi, it is also facing other fronts such as the communist insurgency. Padilla reported that the Armed forces confiscated bombs from two individuals in Bukidnon after a clash with leftist rebels.
The two NPA members are already in police custody and the military is verifying whether they are connected to a particular partylist organization following the recovery of IDs from them.
Despite multiple challenges, Padilla assured the public that the military is working to make communities secure.
“And we can assure you and guarantee you that despite the challenges that we face on many fronts, your Armed Forces and your Police are very much proactively engaged to address all the security challenges that we face with the appropriate measures and programs so that we can better protect our cities, our citizens and all the industries that provide the economic lifeblood of the island,” he said.
As of Thursday night, the military was able to neutralize 522 enemies and recover 600 firearms. Civilians rescued stood at 1,724.
Cash donations also continue to pour in. As of 2:45 p.m. Thursday, the amount intended for casualties of the Armed Forces of the Philippines stood at P100,070,804.23.
Of this amount, P1,500,000 have been withdrawn to take care of those soldiers wounded in action. The balance of P98, 570, 804. 23 remains in the bank. For the internally displaced person (IDPs), the total donation is at P873,515.21.###PND