MANILA - The economic team of President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday met with several senators as the bill granting free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs) is set to automatically lapse into law within the week.
A Palace source told ABS-CBN News that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia held a meeting with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senators Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda and Sonny Angara to discuss the bill.
The Senate and House of Representatives on July 5 sent the copy of the bill to the Office of the President. Based on the Constitution, the bill will automatically lapse on Aug. 5, 30 days after the President's receipt, unless he signs or vetoes it ahead of the said date.
Diokno earlier said the government may not be able to shoulder the cost of granting free tuition in SUCs. He said the government may have to shell out P100 billion annually if the bill passes into law.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, however, disagreed with the budget chief, saying his figure was “way off the mark.”
The cost of subsidizing tuition in public technical-vocational institutions and SUCs is approximately P30 billion, or less than a third of Diokno's estimate, Gatchalian said.
"Certainly, the government can afford to make this investment for the benefit of millions of young Filipinos," he earlier said in a statement.
Gatchalian, an administration ally, also countered Pernia's conclusion that tuition subsidies would have minimal impact.
"By lessening the burden of educational costs on working-class households, we are giving them the chance to build a secure and happy future for themselves and their families," Gatchalian said.
"This is in line with the country's long-term socioeconomic goal of building a strong middle-income society," he added. -- reports from Dharel Placido and Dexter Ganibe, ABS-CBN News