Recto wants to expand free education

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
Recto wants to expand free education
Finance Secretary Ralph Recto.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The government should make fiscal space available to expand free education in the country, according to Finance Secretary Ralph Recto, as he deviates yet again from his predecessor.

Recto said there should always be expansion for the education sector in general.

“I think we should expand it, anything about education,” Recto told reporters late Tuesday afternoon.

“Of course, it’s a mix of where do we spend it – in the primary, secondary or tertiary? There’s always going to be that debate, but what is important is we spend more on education,” he said.

Last year, former finance secretary and now Monetary Board member Benjamin Diokno pushed for a review of free college education in state universities and colleges, saying it is “unwieldy, inefficient and wasteful.”

Diokno was referring to the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law enacted by the Duterte administration, of which he was a part.

He issued the statement amid the still limited fiscal space of the government coming from the pandemic, during which the national debt and budget deficit swelled.

Nonetheless, Recto argued that the government should make fiscal space available to accommodate such a social program.

“I think we should make space for that and I think it’s the most important investment,” Recto said.

“No matter how much infrastructure you build, it’s the people who will be using that. So if they are not educated, how will they use it productively?” he said.

Signed during the first year of the Duterte administration in 2017, the law exempts qualified college students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree, certificate degree or any comparable undergraduate degree from the burden of tuition and other school fees.

Public education in the country is free and universal from kindergarten to college.

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