By Mario Casayuran
The Philippines is in a better position to sustain its high economic growth after college education and health care have been made more accessible to Filipinos through the Free College Education Law and the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, reelectionist Sen. Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ Angara said Saturday.
Angara said these two important pieces of legislation he co-authored and co-sponsored would help boost the country’s human capital, a key driver to economic growth.
‘’By making college education free and giving Filipinos equitable access to affordable and quality health care, we are investing in building human capital which is a key factor that can sustain the high growth rate the country has been experiencing in recent years,’’ he said.
Angara said people with access to education and health care have better chances of getting well-paid jobs and becoming more productive.
“Consider now that we have made college free for all Filipinos. I can guarantee that there will be a palpable change, shift or transformation in our society in the coming generations,” he said.
The lawmaker from Aurora is running for s second six-year term under the platform “Alagang Angara.”
Angara, who strongly believes that education is the great socio-economic equalizer and a stepping stone to something higher and brighter, said that finishing college means being able to pursue employment opportunities that are unavailable to those without a college degree.
“College education could ensure that all children of any class have a shot at success,” he said.
Angara said that investing in the health system does not only save lives, but also a crucial investment in wider economy.
This is because ill-health impairs productivity, hinders job prospects and adversely affects human capital development, he pointed out.
“An education would be for naught, however, if a person is unwell and sickly. And that’s why we also focus on health care, specifically on making it more affordable and more accessible to many more Filipinos,” he explained.
As one of the authors of the UHC law, Angara pushed for the inclusion of free checkup, laboratory tests and some medicines in the coverage of PhilHealth.
“It used to be that one sick family member would set an entire family back tremendously,” he pointed out.
This year, the government will spend P46 billion to implement the country’s Free College Education Law, making it the biggest budget for free college education in Philippine history.
Angara, who sponsored the 2019 budget of the Commission on Higher Education and state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the Senate, said 800,000 students in 112 SUCs and 78 local universities and colleges stand to benefit from the law this year.
Aside from free tuition, Angara said allowance and other financial assistance will be provided to poor students to enable them to finish their studies.
The UHC law, which was signed by President Duterte in February, automatically enrolls all Filipinos to the National Health Security Program that replaced the National Health Insurance Program managed by PhilHealth. It received P18-billion funding under the 2019 spending package of the government.