By Ellson Quismorio
The lack of funding for higher education institutions (HEIs) under the House of Representatives’ proposed economic stimulus bill makes Commission Higher Education (CHEd) Chairman Prospero “Popoy” De Vera feel that the sector is merely an afterthought in the COVID-19 crisis.
Nueva Ecija 1st district Rep. Estrellita Suansing pointed this out during the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education’s virtual hearing Thursday, where De Vera served as a resource speaker.
“In the [P370-billion economic] stimulus bill, education had no budget at all. Unlike tourism [where] there is P43 billion,” she said.
“It’s a little, in a sense, frustrating that when there are discussions on the impact of ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine), the universities have sort of become a second thought,” De Vera told the panel, which is chaired by Baguio lone district Rep. Mark Go
The ECQ, which is designed to keep people at home for an extended period, had been the government’s main response against the pandemic. However, it has stripped almost all Filipinos of the opportunity to engage in their livelihood.
“In fact in the program of DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) for employees who will get the P5,000 assistance, the employees in private universities were also not included. The premise being that you pay the salaries of the faculty members even during summer. Medyo nakalimutan (They were kind of forgotten),” De Vera said.
“Sa stimulus package ganun din, parang nakaligtaan (It’s the same case with the stimulus package),” he noted.
“We need the help of the members of Congress to push for this so that educational institutions do not become an afterthought when we talk about stimulus,” stressed De Vera.
The proposed P370-billion economic stimulus bill is meant to help local businesses get back on their feet after the threat of the contagion has largely passed.
Needless to say, many businesses have undergone tremendous difficulty in the ECQ-induced economic standstill. As for HEIs like private colleges and universities, they are practically businesses too.
Congressman Go promised De Vera that congressmen would come up with a separate bill to address his concerns.
“We will have a separate bill that will address the education sector in the country. As I’ve stated earlier, it was not included in the stimulus package bill that was proposed,” said the committee chairman.
“I think we will highly consider this as a major action item. And that’s precisely the reason why we are here today,” he said.