Citing the famous adage, “Knowledge is Power,” Senator Loren Legarda stressed the importance of providing sufficient funding for higher education, especially for state universities and colleges (SUCs), to shape knowledgeable communities.
During the hearing on the proposed 2018 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and SUCs, Legarda said that funding the needs of the country’s public tertiary education would encourage more students to enroll in SUCs, including in Science, Technology, Engineering, Agri-Fisheries and Mathematics (STEAM) courses.
In line with this, the veteran legislator, Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, provided additional 10 million pesos for capital outlay for all SUCs and committed to look for additional funds to provide free Wi-Fi in all SUCs, even as she assured that the Senate will find the budget to implement the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
“According to the CHED, enrollment in STEAM courses, even in Agri-Fisheries, has been rising. In order to maintain an upward trend in STEAM enrollment, SUCs must have the equipment, special laboratories, expert trainers and teachers, and scholarship programs needed for the teachers to be able to be competent in giving our students the best STEAM education,” the seasoned lawmaker explained.
“We cannot have leaking classrooms, unpainted buildings, and dirty waterless toilets. Clean structures and buildings are basic needs. More students will be attracted to take up college if our SUCs have the facilities needed and we have competent teachers,” the lady senator added.
Meanwhile, Legarda asked CHED and the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi to develop a program for cultural mapping of the intangible and tangible heritage–memories and materials left amid the war in the city.
“It is saddening that the war in Marawi has affected Bangsamoro heritage, with precious artifacts and heirlooms in affected homes and heritage structures destroyed. We need immediate intervention so that the next generations would not be deprived of knowledge about this rich heritage. The process itself and the output of the cultural mapping can help in the psychological healing of the affected populace and in strengthening our cultural bond,” she said.
Legarda also asked SUCs to converge with other agencies of government to provide assistance for research and development to agencies that need such and, vice versa, to access programs of agencies that SUCs need.
For instance, all local government units (LGUs) must have their local climate change action plans (LCCAPs) as mandated under the Climate Change Law. To date, only around 30% of LGUs have complied with the said requirement.
“This is where the role of our SUCs becomes crucial. We need to fast track the creation of LCCAPs of all cities, municipalities, and provinces in the country. I ask the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute (UPRI) and all SUCs to help the Climate Change Commission (CCC) in assisting LGUs to formulate their LCCAPs, which can be the tools to access grant-based funding from the People’s Survival Fund, and even from international climate funds,” she explained.
Legarda also requested the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to collaborate with SUCs for equipment needed for livelihood programs through the Shared Service Facilities (SSF) of the DTI, like the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU) in La Union that does silk processing and weaving; the Mariano Memorial State University (MMSU) in Ilocos Norte for their biofuels project; and the Southern Luzon State University’s (SLSU) nipa palm sugar processing center.
“Our SUCs are valuable institutions in providing quality tertiary education and in building capacities of communities, especially through research and development. This is why we are providing our SUCs the funds necessary for them to undertake their crucial role in our society,” she concluded.