DBM on free tuition in state colleges: 'Di kaya ng gobyerno 'yan'

MANILA, Philippines – The bill granting free tuition in state colleges is "too costly for the government," according to Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

During the hearing on the proposed 2018 national budget on Tuesday, August 1, Diokno admitted that the government cannot shoulder the estimated budget requirements of the bill. (READ: Education, infra to get bulk of proposed 2018 nat'l budget)

"We estimate that the cost of this bill, it will cost us something around P100 billion. Hindi po kaya ng gobyerno 'yan (The government cannot shoulder that)," Diokno said, in response to Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago's concern over the bill's absence of budget for 2018.

Elago questioned why the Duterte administration proposes to spend over P1 trillion in infrastructure development but would not allot budget for free college education.

The Duterte administration has previously allocated P8 billion under the 2017 budget for the implementation of the tuition-free policy. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Karlo Nograles said he supports the restoration of the budget. 

"It was not in the 2018 budget of the President... In the absence of any law, we cannot appropriate money for free tuition," the budget chief told Elago. (READ: What to expect if Duterte signs law on free college tuition by June)

The House of Representatives and the Senate ratified the final version of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in May, which will provide full tuition subsidy for students in 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges, and government-run technical-vocational schools.

Under the National Expenditure Program, SUCs will receive an allocation of P64.6 billion while the Commission on Higher Education will receive P13.5 billion next year.

In February, the country's economic managers expressed opposition to the bill because it will benefit largely "non-poor students."

The bill was submitted for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature last July 5. It will lapse into law on August 5 if the President will take no action on the measure. – Rappler.com