Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez (GMA News)
Tuition-free education in all state universities and colleges now only needs President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature to become law.
On Tuesday, the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on Senate Bill No. 1304 and House Bill No. 5633, now known as the proposed Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
The same report was ratified by the House of Representatives on Monday.
The proposal will thereafter be sent to Malacañang for Duterte’s signature.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate education committee, said the bill, when signed into law, would apply to the second semester of school year 2017 to 2018.
The proposal covers all SUCs and LUCs accredited and recognized by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
“In so far as these students are enrolled in these institutions are concerned, they will no longer pay tuition and other fees to include miscellaneous fees,” Escudero said.
The measure also covers tuition and other fees of state-owned and local government unit-owned technical and vocational institutions approved and recognized by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Escudero said the bill also proposes a Tertiary Education Subsidy, which provides for a grant that can be given to any student studying in any SUC, LUC, or any private higher education institution, as well as a Student Loan Fund that can be accessed by tertiary students.
At the Senate, the said proposal was authored by 12 senators, including Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, who chaired the Senate education committee until Liberal Party (LP) senators were stripped off their chairmanships in February.
Aquino said the proposal is a “gift” to the youth.
“Hopefully, when the President signs this into law, we can truly see the change that we want to see for our countrymen,” Aquino said.
“Noong dekada otsensa lang naging libre ang high school sa Pilipinas. Thirty years later, magiging libre na rin ang tertiary o college sa SUCs at LUCs. We’re really making educational institutions accessible to more Filipinos,” he added.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, also an author of the bill, hailed the approval of the measure.
“The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act is a key stepping stone toward achieving the Philippines’s ambitious long-term socio-economic vision under the Ambisyon Natin 2040 plan,” Gatchalian said.