MANILA - Sen. Lito Lapid is pushing for a bill that seeks to postpone higher education student loans and debt payments during disasters to encourage more families to keep their children in school in times of calamities.
Senate Bill 1538 also covers student debts incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.
"With most families left without stable sources of income and livelihood during major disaster and calamities, priorities for expenses are restrained to the most basic needs such as food, medicines and other daily needs," Lapid said in the bill's explanatory note.
"Through this measure, the student loan liabilities are temporarily eased off from the minds of disaster-stricken families as they focus more on the more basic and essential daily expenses," he said.
Under the bill, "fees, charges and costs relating to the student loan programs" in private and public universities, colleges, vocational schools and other higher education institutions shall be deferred up to 30 days after a state of calamity has been lifted.
"If the covered period exceeds a total of 60 days, the payment of the fees, charges and costs shall be further deferred until the end of the next academic semester or term," the bill read.
Educational institutions are also barred from imposing interest on the deferred loans and penalties against students who avail of the debt moratorium program.
A group of private schools in the country earlier estimated some 2 million students to either transfer to public schools or drop out from the education system after the coronavirus crisis triggered job cuts and business closures nationwide.
The Commission on Higher Education earlier asked lawmakers to shoulder the tuition of students whose overseas Filipino worker (OFW) parents were barred from flying abroad due to COVID-19 restrictions.