By Genalyn Kabiling
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is hopeful that its subsidy program, including free tuition in state universities, would not suffer any budget cut in the event of the suspension of increase of excise on fuel.
Lawyer Cinderella Jaro, CHED officer-in-charge executive director, said CHED intends to reach out to the Department of Finance (DoF) about the matter amid the potential revenue loss that will be caused by the oil tax suspension.
“Definitely, we will be in close coordination with DoF so that iyong provision for education will somehow not be affected by any deduction,” Jaro said during a Palace press briefing.
The government earlier announced it was inclined to suspend the next increase of the excise tax on oil products in January 2019 even at the cost of losing P40 billion in revenues. The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law allows the government to defer the scheduled increase of fuel excise tax if the three-month average of Dubai crude hits $80 per barrel.
So far, Jaro said a government task force was expected to be created to determine which government services might suffer budget deductions. She expressed hope that the finance department would spare the education budget from any cuts.
“I was able to coordinate with Asec. (Finance Assistant Secretary Tony) Lambino. As he has stated, iyon na nga po, may mga possibilities or they are looking at possibilities on how to reduce iyong certain services,” she said.
“But as of now, they have not yet made a decision on the matter,” he said.
For 2018, Jaro said the commission has been given P40 billion for the implementation of Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA). This was a huge increase from the small budget of P8 billion in 2017.
Of the budget, P16 billion goes to free higher education wherein the government will provide free tuition, miscellaneous and other similar or related fees to students admitted in state universities and colleges CHED-recognized local universities and colleges; P7 billion for free technical-vocational education and training; P16 billion for tertiary education subsidy; and, P1 billion for the student loan program.
“For the year 2019, there was also an increase of somehow ay P3 billion po for the budget of CHEd, for our UniFAST (Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education) for the implementation of UniFAST or for the implementation of RA 10931,” Jaro said.