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‘Funds for free tuition may come from 3 agencies’

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representa­tives is eyeing to cut the 2018 budgets of three agencies and allot the reductions for the free college education program.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, appropriations committee chairman, identified the three agencies yesterday as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Department of Transportation (DOTr).

He said he found out during budget hearings that DICT “has P2.7 billion in unused appropriations for 2016 and another P2.7 billion for 2017.”

“These funds will expire on Dec. 31, 2017 and I doubt very much if DICT will be able to use them before the year ends. So instead of wasting these funds, I would rather use the money to support the higher education law for free tuition and miscellaneous fees for students in state schools,” he said.

Like DICT, he said DAR has “low fund utilization rate.”

“DAR failed to use P6 billion in 2015 and P5 billion in 2016. DOTr, on the other hand, failed to utilize P33 billion in 2015 and in 2016, they failed to obligate P30 billion of their budget,” Nograles added.

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He pointed out that since some of the unused allocations were programmed for 2015, the appropriations had already expired and were reverted to the national treasury.

He stressed that Congress could not give agencies money they could not use within the budget year.

He said his committee is considering allocating unused funds for free college education in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and other government-run tertiary schools.

The Commission on Higher Education estimates that P20 billion would be needed for the free college education program.

The Nograles committee has pooled P16 billion from the scholarship allotments of SUCs and would allocate the money for the program. 

President Duterte has signed the law providing for free education in SUCs even if he knew there were no funds for it.

He said lawmakers knew as much when they passed the free education bill, so he might as well toss to them the funding problem.

New CHED execs named

President Duterte has appointed two new commissioners of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

CHED commissioner and spokesman J. Prospero de Vera said the President has appointed Lilian de las Llagas and Perfecto Alibin as new members of the five-member body.

“There are now four appointees (of President Duterte) in CHED (including me and Commissioner Ronald Adamat) and we will ensure the implementation of the higher education promises of the President,” said De Vera.

The fifth member of the commission, Chair Patricia Licuanan, was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino III to a fixed term that will end next year.

The two new appointees will replace commissioners Minella Alarcon and Alex Brillantes, whose terms have already expired.

De las Llagas is the former secretary to the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines (UP), where she is a professor of public health at its Manila campus.

She graduated Bachelor of Science in Hygiene from UP, and has a masters degree in Tropical Medicine from Mahidol University in Thailand and doctorate degree in biology from Universiti Sains Malaysia. She also completed a Bachelor of Laws degree in 2003.

Meanwhile, Alibin is the former president of the University of Southeastern Philippines (USeP) in Davao City, where he is a long-time professor of educational management and public administration.– With Janvic Mateo

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