“Since many people have been waiting for the President’s action for the very important enrolled bill that was passed by Congress last May entitled the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, I am pleased to announce that last night, August 3, 2017, the President signed the enrolled bill,” said Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra during the Mindanao Hour news briefing at the Conrad Hotel on Friday.
The bill, passed by Congress in May, will have automatically become a law on August 5 if the President did not act on it.
Guevarra said Duterte decided the long-term benefits of free tuition outweigh its costs.
“The enrolled bill came to the Office of the Presient nearly 30 days ago and during that period there had been a lot of discussions and study about the bill because of its very heavy budgetary implication first and foremost,” Guevarra said.
“But tuition in tertiary education in state universities and colleges is a very strong pillar or cornerstone of the President’s social development policy. 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 short term budgetary challenges,” he added.
Back in February, the country’s economic managers expressed opposition to the bill, saying it will benefit largely “non-poor students.”
On Tuesday, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno admitted that the government could not shoulder the estimated budget requirements of the bill. Diokno estimated that the proposal would cost P100 billion.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, meanwhile, said granting full subsidy to tuition in all SUCs would disadvantage higher private education institutions.
The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the final version of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in May, which will provide full tuition subsidy for students in 112 SUCs, local universities and colleges, and government-run technical-vocational schools.