Diokno says free tuition law now part of GAA

MANILA, Philippines – Despite having earlier opposed the passage of the free tuition law, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the bill is now fully provided for in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

"We’re providing for it. Kasama na talaga sa budget (It’s really part of the budget now)," Diokno told Rappler at the sidelines of his weekly media briefing.

Context: Diokno earlier told lawmakers free tuition in state and local universities and colleges (SUCs and LUCs) would be "too costly for the government.” (READ: DBM on free tuition in state colleges: 'Di kaya ng gobyerno 'yan')

At the time, he said government would not be able to shoulder the budget requirements previously estimated to be about P100 billion.

Along with Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia also opposed the bill, saying it will benefit largely the non-poor students who make up the bulk of students in SUCs.

A study by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies also warned the measure could result in poor families subsidizing students from richer families. (READ: Mr President, before signing the law on free college tuition, please read this)

How much it costs: About P40 billion has been allotted for the first full year of implementation of Republic Act No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act this school year 2018 to 2019.

The amount was sourced from the budget of underperforming government agencies. It will shoulder the tuition and fees of students enrolled in 112 SUCs, 78 LUCs, and technical-vocation education and training programs registered under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. 

Meanwhile, Diokno also said P51 billion has been allocated for the next year.

Economic experts earlier questioned the sustainability of the law, with many groups criticizing the proposal as "anti-poor" and a move that could see an influx of students moving to SUCs and LUCs. (READ: Who will benefit from the free tuition law?)

A spike in applications has already been seen: the University of the Philippines said it received over 60,000 additional applications for the incoming school year on Monday, July 30 largely due to the free tuition policy. – with a report from Aika Rey/Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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