Free tuition not available to all undergraduate students of SUCs

MANILA, Philippines - President Rodrigo Duterte has clarified that not all undergraduate students of state universities and colleges (SUCs) can avail of free tuition next year.

Free tuition not available to all undergraduate students of SUCs
In his message sent to the Congress on Thursday, December 22, the firebrand leader emphasized that “poor but academically qualified students” would be prioritized in the new initiative.

“Yet, as with all new programs, there is a need to safeguard the proper implementation of the provision of free tuition fee. It is important to underscore that we must give priority to financially disadvantaged but academically able students,” Duterte explained.

Duterte vetoed certain provisions of the P3.35 trillion national budget for 2017. Among provisions subjected to “conditional implementation” is the P8-billion tuition free program for undergraduate students in SUCs.

The budget for free tuition of SUCs was originally part of the P40-billion funding initially intended for infrastructure projects in five provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). According to reports, ARMM legislators allegedly requested the transfer of the P8-billion infrastructure fund to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Sen. Panfilo Lacson, head of ARMM funding, returned the budget to the ARMM.

The House-Senate conference committee redistributed the budget to free tuition under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) as a compromise.

Furthermore, Duterte vetoed provisions seeking to authorize certain agencies to use their incomes from fees. He also prohibited the Congress as well as the Commission on Audit (COA) from keeping unused allotment.

“To reiterate, all unreleased appropriations and unobligated allotments authorized in this Act shall revert back to the general fund at the end of the validity of appropriations and shall be available to expenditure only upon subsequent legislative enactment,” Duterte said.

Duterte recently signed into law the P3.35 trillion budget to ensure that state funds would be “pro-people, pro-investment, pro-growth and pro-development.”

--Mini, The Summit Express

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