Solon urges gov't agencies: Share budget to fund free tuition law

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2017 11:41 AM

MANILA - Government agencies could give up part of their 2018 budget to fund the law granting free tuition and other fees for students in state universities and colleges, as well as local universities and colleges and technical-vocational institutions, a lawmaker said Monday.

Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles said the different government departments and agencies would "really have to defend their budget" or risk having to suffer some cuts "if we see that some projects and programs that are not being totally funded, that they are underutilizing the funds, they’re not obligating the funds that we set for them in 2016 and 2017."

Nograles, who is the chairman of the House appropriations committee, believes that Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, which has been signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last week, should have "a whole-of-government approach" and the different agencies should stand by the chief executive's decision.

"Kumbaga, mag-bayanihan spirit tayo—instead of Congress identifying what we’re gonna slash there and take away from you in order to pool it and fund this Free Higher Education Law, then maybe you can voluntarily say, ‘Okay, I’m willing to give this up and give that up,'" he told ANC's Headstart.

He said government corporations, which are supported by the General Appropriations Act, might also be willing to give up a portion of their budget.

"My calculation is there are about 110 offices—various departments, agencies, and offices—that come to Congress, asking for funding. 110, sabihin natin P20 billion, and they give up about 100, 200 million on average...then maybe we’d be able to find 20 billion there," said Nograles.

Nograles also said that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, though they do not get their budget from Congress, may also chip in if their charters would allow it.

President Duterte signed the bill last week despite the reluctance of some members of his economic team on the proposed measure due to the cost that will be entailed in funding free tertiary education.

Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the President considered the long-term benefits that the free tuition and other fees will give to the public.