30 May 2017
Statement Transcript




SENATOR CHIZ ESCUDERO (CHIZ): (inaudible) local universities and colleges in so far as students and these local universities are concerned; they will no longer pay tuition and other fees, to include miscellaneous fees, Mr. President, your Honor. Likewise, we covered in free tuition and other fees state-owned and local government unit-owned technical vocational institutions approved and recognized by the TESDA.

Further Mr. President, your Honor, we established a tertiary education subsidy, which basically provides for a grant that can be given to any Filipino students studying in any SUC and any LUC, any private higher education institution, any public or state-owned, as well as private TVIs or tech-voc Institutions, to apply for a grant in so far as either tuition, other fees, other educational expenses or board and lodging is concerned for student to complete his/her tertiary education.

Further Mr. President, and finally, we also established a student loan fund to be administered by the UNIFAST Board, whereby each Filipino student enrolled in a private HCI, in an SUC, in an LUC and all types of TVIs can apply for a loan in order to pay for any or all other expenses that might not have been covered by the free tuition in SUCs and LUCs and by the grant that can be given through the tertiary education subsidy.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, we also strengthened the UNIFAST Board, adding some members to it, providing more representation, to the association or the organization of state colleges as well as private tertiary institutions and also provided the UNIFAST Board the power to set-up their own organization's structure in order to implement the tertiary education subsidy and the student loan program. Mr. President, distinguished colleagues we decided not to include any specific appropriation or amount in so far as appropriations law is concerned.

Lest this be a (inaudible) with respect to the president acceding to this bill. In any case, Congress will be passing upon the budget for the succeeding year and we have every intentions of funding or providing to the amounts necessary to fund and carry out this bill from within the existing budget that we have in so far as scholarships and grants are concerned either under the CHED or the TESDA. With this Mr. President, may I ask all our colleagues to support me asking for the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the (inaudible) provision of Senate Bill 1504 and 5633. So move Mr. President.

SENATOR TITO SOTTO (TS): Mr. President, may we recognize Senator Bam Aquino before we act on the motion.

SENATOR KOKO PIMENTEL (KP): Senator Aquino is recognized.

TS: And also Senator Legarda, Mr. President.

SENATOR BAM AQUINO (BA): Mr. President, as we know, this is Senate initiative that we pushed at the start of the 17th Congress. We agreed that this would be our priority for this Congress. Later on, during the budget deliberation, Senators Legarda and Lacson, and a few, Senator Recto, few others move to already include in the budget an initial P8.3 billion which will be implemented by CHED for the first semester, the idea for this bill is that this should cover the second semester of school year 2017-2018.

Mr. President, I'm aware that we are set to tackle a number of matters which might further divide the House, but let me just reiterate that this bill was one where we are all united in pushing for this major reform to our countrymen. Isa po itong panukala, isa po itong reporma kung saan lahat po tayo ay nagkaisa. Lahat tayo itinulak ito nang sabay-sabay at isa po itong panukala na buong-buo nating sinuportahan dito po sa Senado and thankfully sa Kongreso. And hopefully, when the president signs this into law, we will find this major reform truly able to change lives and create the change that we want to see with our countrymen.

Isa po itong regalo sa ating mga kabataa, sa kanilang mga pamilya. And I thank my colleagues, especially Senator Escudero, who took over the reins on Committee on Education, Senators (Ralph) Recto, (Win) Gatchalian and myself and Senator Escudero were part of the bicam, who I think in the end came up with an even better version once we consolidated the wishes of the House of the Representatives. So with that, Mr. Chair, Mr. President, may I just again thank all our colleagues and hope that come GAA, come budget time, we will find the necessary budget to enact this and to implement this for our people. Maraming salamat, Mr. President.

TS: Senator Legarda, Mr. President.

KP: Senator Legarda is recognized.

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA (LL): I want to congratulate and support you Mr. President, Senator Aquino and Senator Escudero for expediting this into law with the Bicameral Conference Committee. And we all know that the Php8.3-B is already provided for in the 2017 Budget. Although the Php8.3-B, Php300-M of which, will go to medical institutions of higher learning and the P8 billion only for the tuition of state universities and colleges.

I am informed by the two gentlemen, the sponsors, that this would be more than Php50-B to include not only tuition, but miscellaneous expenses as well and could also include higher education private institutions where they could seek the assistance of the Commission on Higher Education for funding and that really elates me and to the best of my abilities as chairman of Committee on Finance, we'll find the budget for speedy implementation this year, not next year, a supplemental budget is needed to be able to fund the Php58-B needed for the miscellaneous expenses to be included Mr. President, your chair would be willing to work extra.

So I would like to congratulate Sen. Bam Aquino who started this and many, half of the chamber who are authors of this measure, and Senator Escudero who took over the chairmanship of the Education Committee. This is our gift to the Filipino people especially during this trouble time in our country. Thank you, Mr. President.

CHIZ: Mr. President, just a manifestation, for the record, both panels agreed that given the ordinary course of events, this bill would be effective August and therefore apply to the second semester of the current school year now, either by a supplemental budget to be passed by Congress this year or for, to be included in the budget of 2018 by May of an accounts payable for the SUCs and LUCs covered by this act, we would be funding it. As long as the understanding is it will already apply and implemented in the second semester of the current school year. Thank you Mr. President. May I move for the previous…

TS: No, Mr. President, may we recognize the minority leader for a clarification.

SENATOR FRANKLIN DRILON (FD): Thank you, Mr. President, first of all I would like to associate myself with Senators Escudero, Aquino and Legarda for praising our colleagues, to their effort to put in place this landmark legislation. Indeed something that we need especially for youth sector or education sector. I am bothered, however, Mr. President by the lack of appropriation.

This year, we recalled, we realigned Php8.3-B in the 2017 General Appropriations Act. Sen. Legarda, as manifested if necessary, a supplemental budget can be inactive as this bill will become effective in the second semester of this current school year. Of course the problem in constitution is that there must be a certification from the National Treasurer of the availability of the funds which I hear will amount to Php50-B.

For the next budget which is in 2018 Budget, I understand we need another Php58-B. The question that I have in mind Mr. President, number one, if a Supplemental Budget cannot be inactive, that standing our full support because the national treasury would not issue certification. Or if the General Appropriations on president's budget in 2018 will not include budget for this program, what will happen, Mr. President?

CHIZ: I share the concerns of our Minority Leader Senator Drilon, however, it was discussed and agreed in the panel not to (inaudible) the amount because our concern Mr. President is this might be a ground for issuance of presidential veto and would just return to the not so good IRR issued by both DBM and CHED on how the Php8.3-B passed would be implemented for this school year.

But we have approximately Php800-B worth of unfunded mandates, most of it placed an amount anyway because at the end of the day, earmarks will be passed upon by Congress anyway, every year that we discussed and passed the budget. Just to place on the record how not far away we are. The current amounts of money we're spending for education, scholarship, grants and tuition both under TESDA and CHED with amount of a little over P30-billion not including yet the Php8.3-B that we inserted in the budget for the current year.

So you're looking at approximately Php38-B in the difference to look for in 2018 Budget if at all would be in the area of Php20-B. With amount of underspending in low absorptive capacity of the previous and of this government Mr. President, I think between the amount ourselves especially with both Majority and Minority in full agreement with the intention of this bill, we can source the funds either from the savings of the current year or the proposed budget next year.

FD: Just to clarify for 2018 we need about Php20-B to fully fund this mandate.

CHIZ: Well, Mr. President, it will not cover, the problem is in school year not follow the fiscal year so it will not cover the first semester because the effectivity will apply only to the second semester of this year. So you are looking at the school year covering November to March, depending on when they start or October which will apply half of the year.

FD: Yes.

CHIZ: So I don't know when we will apply or we will appropriate it for the current or for the next year. That is a matter for Senator Legarda, I guess. The exercise of our wisdom, how she will appropriate and divide it accordingly. Within the current, within the fiscal year given that the school year does not follow how we appropriate funds under the GAA.

FD: So for the first semester, for the second semester of the school year 2017, 2018 we can look at the present…

CHIZ: Mr. President, if we pass a supplemental budget it can cover it, if not it will be an accounts payable for the previous year, which will be included in the budget in the 2018, on top of what we should be appropriating for school year 2018-2019.

FD: Alright so, we just have to look at this again in so far expanding is concerned. And of course we can always realign the portions of the 2018.

CHIZ: (laughs)

FD: According to Senator (Panfilo) Lacson, we get it from ARMM again Php48.3-B was sourced from in the first place. But I think the amounts we are talking about this, much more than that this time.

CHIZ: Mr. President, the bill actually proposes a paradigm shift, where SUCs directly through Congress, LUCs through the CHED, and TVIs through TESDA, will be presenting to us how much, how many potential enrollees they will have in the coming year. And ask us for the budget to pay for the tuition of these students.

So it will have to be passed upon by Congress. Kumbaga po sa simpleng salita, ang lahat ng SUCs, ang lahat ng LUC at TVIs, parang magiging DepEd po iyan. Parang elementary at high school na pupunta po sila dito para hingan tayo ng budget on top of their own locally generated income. Bibigyan po natin sila ng subsidy, not only for their expenses but also for the tuition fee that should have been paid by the students enrolled in their institutions.

FD: Yeah, just one final point. I know this should have been asked earlier before we pass the measure of this bill will not cover those enrolled in locally funded schools. Those which are established by LGUs which we know exist all over the country or are they also included?

CHIZ: It will be included. It is included Mr. President, your Honor, for as long as they are accredited and recognized by CHED. Because not all local government, local colleges and universities are still accredited and recognized by CHED because their funding comes from the local government unit.

FD: And what happens to the students in those non-recognized institutions of learning funded by LGUs?

CHIZ: Mr. President, your Honor, they will not be covered by this act because while we want free tertiary education and equal access to every Filipino students. We also want to maintain quality in so far as the education being offered to them is concerned.

FD: Thank you, Mr. President.

FGE: Thank you, Mr. President.

TS: Mr. President, the previous question was the adoption and the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the agreed provisions of the Senate Bill 1304 and House Bill 5633, we have no objections, Sir.

KP: Any objection to the pending motion? There being none, the motion is approved.

TS: Thank you, Mr. President, I am informed that before we can proceed with the rest of the agenda, we have to incorporate the second additional reference of business which includes the proclamation of the president. So I move to suspend the session until further notice.

KP: Majority leader, I've been informed the measure.

TS: I move for the additional reference of business.

KP: Any objection? Non, motion is approved. Secretary.

SENATE SECRETARY LUTGARDO BARBO (LB): Second additional reference of business, message of the president of the Philippines. Letter of the President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, dated 25 May 2017.






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