The Senate version of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill specifically allocated the revenue gain from the proposed tax reform measure to the implementation of the Free College law, among other programs that directly benefit the poor.
During the budget hearing of the Commission of Higher Education (CHED), CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said the commission’s proposed budget of P12.4 billion for 2018 does not include the needed funding for the law mandating free tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs), pending the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law.
Licuanan said the IRR is expected to be out next month, and that the funding requirement is approximately P51 billion to cover the free tuition in 111 SUCs and the University of the Philippines, 16 accredited local universities and colleges, technical-vocational institutions, and financial support for other education-related expenses targeted to poor students.
To ensure its funding and sustained implementation, the Senate ways and means committee listed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education in the earmarking provision of TRAIN or Senate Bill 1592.
“Sinigurado sa bersyon ng Senado na malinaw nang nakasaad kung saang proyekto o serbisyo mapupunta ang karagdagang pondo na makakalap dahil sa TRAIN. We want to ensure that whatever is collected from this measure actually goes to more accessible healthcare and education, more affordable food and the feeding program, efficient public transportation, as well as increased job opportunities,” said Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee.
“TRAIN will help build not only the country’s physical infrastructure, but also its human infrastructure. When the poor have access to education, healthcare, and social services, they gain better opportunities, leading to better incomes for their families,” added Angara in his sponsorship speech of SB 1592, which aims to reduce tax rates of 99% of individual income taxpayers that would lead to higher take-home pay.
Meanwhile, it was also announced by the veteran legislator during CHED’s budget hearing that the Senate will be adding P10 million to the capital outlay budget of each SUC – totaling to approximately P1.2 billion – to fund the improvement of their infrastructure and facilities.
The seasoned lawmaker said such increase was approved by Finance committee chair Senator Loren Legarda, and decided together with Senators JV Ejercito, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Joel Villanueva, Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay.
“Our SUCs are expecting an increase in enrollment due to the free college tuition law. Ang dagdag na pondo na ito ay para masiguro na may sapat, matibay at magandang imprastruktura at pasilidad ang ating mga kolehiyo at unibersidad para sa mga benepisyaryo ng free tertiary education,” the youthful senator said.