Private schools decry continuing harm caused by government economic reforms

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

The private education sector cannot help but utter a yelp as the recent reforms implemented and planned by the government – particularly the free higher education and the tax reform package – continue to “hurt and harm” them.

(photo from google) (photo from google / MANILA BULLETIN)

“This is our way of saying ‘aray!’… that these reforms are harming and hurting us,” said Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) President Fr. Joel Tabora SJ. CEAP has been expressing its concern on the implementation of the Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA) as well as on the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) 2 or the TRABAHO Bill.

CEAP is a national association of Catholic educational institutions in the Philippines with 1, 484 member schools nationwide. Tabora, who is also the president of Ateneo De Davao University, said that CEAP member-schools have been manifesting its “growing concern” in the manner by which the UAQTEA is being implemented saying it “poses a threat to the very existence” not only of Catholic schools but of “private education as a whole.”

Tabora noted that despite the constitutional mandate that the budget for education be given the utmost priority, “the State cannot as yet, and arguably can never afford quality higher education for all.” CEAP stressed that “regardless of whatever amount” that has been allocated to education in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), “this budget is still limited in scope and cannot realistically serve the demands that will inevitably increase” on account of the “lure of free higher education” in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs) as provided in the RA 10931.

Thus, CEAP is calling for the full implementation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the 10931 – particularly the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) as well Loan Fund Provisions – which are designed to assist private schools.

CEAP is also calling for the amendment in the RA 10931 which will explicitly mention that “those who can pay for quality higher education, ought to pay for it those who cannot pay should be fully assisted (by State) to obtain their education.”

On the implementation of TRAIN 2, Tabora noted that private schools “should not be punished.” Meanwhile, CEAP Legal Counsel Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada said that if the current version of TRAIN 2 bill is passed into law, “this will weaken private education.”

“However, CEAP also supports the position of proprietary or profit educational institutions for a status quo of tax incentives currently enjoyed by them at 10 % preferential tax rate,” Estrada said. “We do not subscribe to the proposal that tax incentives must be conditioned upon compliance with performance criteria to be determined and evaluated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepEd),” he added.

Estrada noted “tax exemption and incentives should not be tied up with institutional performance.” Overall, CEAP noted that while there is a need to raise taxes and rationalize tax exemptions to finance priority programs of government, “this should be in a way that still recognized the complementary role of private education.”