House out to fix UHC, free college tuition laws during budget process

Published September 11, 2019, 5:08 PM

by Dhel Nazario, Jeffrey G. Damicog, and Rey G. Panaligan

By Ellson Quismorio

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano wants to fix during the ongoing budget cycle the implementation of two supposed legacy measures passed by the Duterte administration, namely the Universal Health Care Act and Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Alan Peter Cayetano / Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN)
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Alan Peter Cayetano / Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN)

This, after Cayetano admitted to reporters that problems in connection with the two measures were usually raised during House members’ meetings on the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.

“In almost all of our caucuses or right after the caucus’ small discussion, yung Universal Health [Care] tsaka yung Free [College] Education [laws] parating nabi-bring up (the laws on Universal Health Care and Free College Education are always brought up),” the Speaker said.

“Personally ako, rather than magpasa pa tayo ng additional bills na magsasabing magpapabango sa gobyerno o sa sistema, ayusin natin yung dalawang batas na naipasa na kung paano maging mas effective,” Cayetano said.

(Personally, for me, rather than passing additional bills that would make the government or the system look good, let’s just make these two laws more effective.)

“The right time to do that is in the budget process. Kasi yung batas nandyan na. Yung implementation at yung funding ang pinag-uusapan talaga dyan (Because the law is already in place. The implementation and funding will really be tackled),” he further reckoned.

The House of Representatives had just begun floor deliberations on the national budget, and the members can decide to realign or repurpose existing funds there as they see fit.

Signed last February, Republic Act (RA) 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act guarantees equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services for all Filipinos. It also automatically enrolls Filipino citizens into the National Health Insurance Program and expands the PhilHealth coverage to include free medical consultations and laboratory tests.

On the other hand, RA 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act was enacted in August 2017.

The law provides for the free tuition and miscellaneous fees for college students in all 114 State Universities and Colleges (SUC) in the country.

Other beneficiaries include college students in the 16 Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs) accredited by Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and 122 Technical-Vocational Institutions (TVIs) under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

“Kung titignan mo yung budget ng CHED, inilagay nila lahat sa budget ng mga state universities kasi free na yung tuition. Ang problema, nawalan ng funds for student, for assistance to scholars or students na nasa private school,” Cayetano said.

(If you look at the budget of the CHED, they’ve placed all of their budget on state universities because tuition is already free. The problem is, there are no more funds for scholar or student assistance in private schools.)

“And you also don’t want to change the balance of numbers of students going to private and state universities because they co-exist in an ecosystem that makes education better in the country. Kung lahat lilipat sa State U (university) or yung State U isasara lilipat sa private, magkakaroon tayo ng malaking imbalance,” he explained.

(If all college students transfer to state universities, or if a state university closes down and the students transfer to a private institution, then we will have a big imbalance.)

“The other issue is [the] Universal Health Care [law],” continued Cayetano.

“Napakalaki ng expectations ng ating kababayan (Our countrymen have big expectations from it) but the funding is a problem and the scandals that have hit PhilHealth is also a problem.”

It was earlier reported that PhilHealth lost as much as P154 billion in funds since 2013 through the bogus kidney dialysis of “ghost patients”. This has robbed genuine, indigent patients the chance to avail of the treatment.