The House Committee on Higher and Technical Education has formed a Technical Working Group to further scrutinize a measure seeking to provide more scholarships for the continuity of college education of students whose head of families are directly and indirectly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a recent virtual hearing, the House panel, chaired by Baguio City Rep. Mark Go, formed the TWG to polish the provisions of the proposed “Sagip Kolehiyo Act,” principally authored by Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas.
In his sponsorship speech, Vargas said he is open to the possible creation of the TWG that would thresh out the provisions of his House Bill No. 7446, which aims to expand the coverage of Republic Act No. 10687, otherwise known as the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Law.
The bill aims to tap UniFAST for the enrollment and schooling assistance of college student children of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and other workers who were laid off due to the economic slowdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am open to amendments. I will submit the bill to the wisdom of the chair and the committee if we will push for a TWG,” Vargas said before the panel’s formation of the TWG panel on his measure.
“This bill is flexible as long as we are able to help the intended beneficiaries.”
Vargas said the UNIFAST program is currently limited to those belonging to poor families and do not necessarily address the lacking support for the new sectors made vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At P5 billion per semester, we shall be able to help approximately 100,000 students continue their college education. We must act fast now,” he said.
Under the bill, the Sagip Kolehiyo Program shall be made available to all Filipino students whose parents or heads of household fall in any of the following categories: No work, no pay workers; jeepney and tricycle drivers; formerly regularly employed but are now laid off due to business closure or retrenchment; hospitalized or have died because of COVID-19; and OFWs who could not find immediate local employment.
HB No. 7446 provides that each eligible student shall be entitled to a maximum assistance of P50,000 per semester or enrolment in a college, university, or institution accredited by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
The bill provides P5 billion additional, top-up fund for the UniFAST program as part of government’s COVID-19 response to assist the students.