Lawmakers push to retain funding for medical students' subsidy in CHED 2021 budget

Lawmakers are pushing for the retention of the scholarship fund for medical students in the 2021 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

During the House deliberations on the CHED's proposed 2021 budget on Wednesday, September 16, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago raised concerns over the "zero allocation" for the scholarship of medical students.

"This is unacceptable, especially in a time of the pandemic, that’s why we call for Congress to restore the budget cuts," Elago said, also noting the 60% budget cut for scholarships of the state universities and colleges (SUCs) next year.

CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera III explained that every year there was no allocation for the scholarship of medical students as Congress only realigned the budget for this.

"Wala pong funding 'yan (It has no funding) historically. We always ask Congress to augment it. We still need the help of Congress on the financial assistance for the medical students," De Vera said.

After consulting the Department of Budget and Management, De Vera clarified that there was budget for medical students' subsidy, but this was only until the second semester of this school year as the funds for 2020 would be retained in the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

However, there will be no funding for the academic year 2021-2022.

There are 1,789 medical students who are currently benefitting from the subsidy, De Vera said.

Northern Samar Representative Paul Daza stressed the need to support medical students, noting that there was a shortage of 4,000 physicians this year as projected by the Department of Health (DOH).

"Very critical that we maintain the funding, the subsidy for medical students in the SUCs," Daza said.

CHED was allocated P49.3 billion under the government's proposed P4.506-trillion budget for 2021.

Why this matters

As the Philippines grappled with the coronavirus pandemic, the surge in COVID-19 cases strained hospital resources in the country.

As of Wednesday, the country still had the highest recorded COVID-19 infections with 272,934 in SouthEast Asia, despite having one of the longest lockdowns in the world.

The United Nations (UN) in July reported that the health care system in the Philippines was a cause for concern amid the pandemic.

The Philippines only has two nurses and midwives per 10,000 people – the lowest among Southeast Asian countries, the UN report said.

Filipino nurses have been leaving the Philippines for many years, after failed attempts of fighting for higher wages and better working conditions. (READ: Low pay, high risk: The reality of nurses in the Philippines) –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.