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Wise investment

By: Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate

REPUBLIC Act. No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act will be one of the defining legacies of the Duterte Administration and of the 17th Congress.

The issue on the needed budget to implement the law starting 2018 may be a minor or major concern depending on who one asks but it is something that will certainly illustrate the resolve of both the Executive and Legislative branches of our government to serve the interests of the Filipino people. Funding R.A. No. 10931 at this time when no specific allocation for such was made in the proposed 2018 national budget will make this achievement even more valuable and laudable.

The leaders and members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives are confident that funds for the implementation of the law can be made available in the 2018 General Appropriations Act.

When our leaders look at the national budget as an investment plan and not as an expense plan, funds for the free tertiary education can really be easily provided.

Even if the estimates on the budgetary requirement of R.A. 10931 vary from 25 to 100 billion pesos, investing the Filipino people money on it should be a top priority in the national budget because of its potential returns.

For one, the current approach of the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives to lump together all scholarship funds in the budgets of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and other government agencies is the proper way of rationalizing the national budget as an investment of and for the Filipino people. There is indeed no more need for scholarship programs funding when we already have funding for a scholarship law.

The “search” for funds needed to implement R.A. No. 10931 also highlights the need for our lawmakers to appropriate funds for programs that agencies in the Executive Department can implement and thus minimize, if not totally eliminate, the “unspent budget” at the end of each year.

The reasoning is simple – why sacrifice a wise investment such as free tertiary education for programs that some agencies will not be able to implement?

In finding funds for the free tertiary education law, Congress may also need to look at non-productive government agencies that continue to get a slice of the national budget pie even if they are not producing services that are valuable to the Filipino public.

One thing is clear – R.A. No. 10931 needs to be funded because it is an investment that will yield substantial returns for the Filipino people and for the Philippines.