SENATOR Chiz Escudero has expressed his support for the partial pay back to the state universities and colleges (SUCs), which appealed to the government to reimburse the amount they spent in 2022 and 2023 in the implementation of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA).
The veteran legislator, who presided over the hearing of the Senate Committee on Higher, Vocational and Technical Education to discuss various education-related bills and the reimbursement of SUCs on Wednesday, said the government is looking at ways to reimburse but it cannot pay in full the demand of these SUCs due to budgetary constraint.
“For 2022, the total so-called deficiency is P2.75 billion. Magkano sa 2023? Based on the report, it is at P4.24 billion, giving a total of roughly P7 billion deficiency for 2022 and 2023,” Escudero told representatives of the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) led by its president, Tirso Ronquillo of the Batangas State University (BSU).
“If we have an opportunity to address that in 2024, we will try to do that. As you heard DBM, they are looking at several formulas on how to pay you back. But they are not paying the entire amount, only a portion or a percentage of it,” he added.
In previous committee hearings that tackled the same issue, Escudero has supported the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) position, acknowledging that paying these SUCs in full would be unfair to other government-owned universities and colleges that stuck to their allotted budget.
“Ang problema, alam naman nila ‘yung budget kung magkano ang kino -cover natin sa free tertiary education and yet, they opened their enrolment wide to exceed the budget. Tapos ngayon, maniningil sila. And in real terms, only half of the schools did that. Not all,” Escudero said earlier.
On Wednesday the veteran legislator asked the Commission on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education (CHED) to arrange a meeting between PASUC and the DBM to resolve the issue “once and for all.”
He urged PASUC to reach a “win-win” solution with DBM so that a provision can be inserted in the proposed 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to finally get their claims.
But moving forward, Escudero said the SUCs should work within their budget allocation and the reimbursable expenses would only cover only up to 10% increase in enrolment, per CHED.
The CHED reported that the basis of imposing a 10% reimbursement cap is its data stating that the average increase in enrolment is about 8% annually.
At yesterday’s hearing, the Escudero committee likewise approved several measures including Senate Bill 2448, which seeks to amend the charter of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) to strengthen and empower the institution.
After deliberation, the committee approved to grant PUP fiscal autonomy, a privilege enjoyed by SUCs with institutional autonomy like the University of the Philippines and the Mindanao State University.