MANILA - Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the proposed budget for some government agencies could be cut to fund free education in state colleges and universities.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law mandating free tuition and other fees at the tertiary level on Aug. 4, over a week after he submitted to Congress his P3.767-trillion budget proposal for next year.
The budget proposal does not include provisions for free college tuition. The Department of Budget and Management had initially estimated that it would need P100 billion for 1.7 million students.
"Kasi zero-sum game yan eh. Fixed na yung total mo. (It's a zero-sum game. Your total is fixed.) There will be some cuts here and there to accommodate additional requirements. But right now we have not yet decided how much," Diokno told a Senate hearing on the 2018 budget.
The DBM will meet on Wednesday with the Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the president of the UP system, members of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee to determine the actual budget for the free college education law.
Diokno said the law would be implemented for school year 2018 to 2019, and will cover all students of state universities and colleges, regardless of their financial standing.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said a partial implementation of the law was possible. He said the government caould fund free tuition on the first year of the law's implementation, the miscellaneous fees the following year, and the subsidies on the third year.