Press Release
January 25, 2017


Senate Bill No. 1304 - An Act Providing for a Full Tuition Subsidy for Students Enrolled in State Universities and Colleges, and Appropriating Funds Thereof Introduced by: Senators Aquino IV, Ejercito, Recto, Gatchalian, Angara, Legarda 25th Day of January in the Year 2017

Delivered by Hon. SHERWIN T. GATCHALIAN, Senator of the Republic:

Mr. President, my dear colleagues, it is with great optimism for the future of our country's tertiary education system that I rise to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1304, the Free Higher Education For All Act.

Free tuition in state universities and colleges is not a novel idea in the Philippines. In fact, it's been around for decades, driven by the frustration of generations of student activists who have taken to the streets to clamor for the government's help in combatting gross inequality in educational access at the tertiary level. Truly, I must commend these courageous students, because they are the ones who inspired me in the first place to dig deeper into the possibility of instituting a tuition-free system in SUCs back when I was still a congressman, culminating in the filing of the original Free Higher Education Act as House Bill No. 5905 on July 6, 2015, during the 16th Congress.

Mr. President, much has changed since then. During the 17th Congress, the idea of free tuition in SUCs has caught fire, with strong support in both houses of the legislature. In the House of Representatives, 18 congressmen have filed bills inspired by the idea of providing free college education to qualified students. Here in the upper house, our colleagues have pushed for an 8 billion peso budget insertion to fund this idea. And now, just seven short months into the First Regular Session, this worthy piece of legislation - which would institutionalize free SUC tuition once and for all - has already made it to the Senate floor after one-fourth of our membership filed bills pushing for free public college education.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues my dear colleagues, today we are faced with a momentous opportunity to chart a new course for our educational sector, uplifting the lives of millions upon millions of Filipinos in the process. This measure, if passed into law, would be a landmark reform in higher education which will give life to the Constitution's lofty promise to "protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels." Allow me to explain why.

According to estimates generated from the 2014 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, 54 percent of college-aged youth - from ages 16 to 21 -youths aged 16 to 21 are not in school. Given population estimates extrapolated from the 2010 National Census, this figure which translates to approximately 6.4 million youths. If we look closer at the data, we can see that 29.77 percent of these youth - disclosed that they are not in school because of the high cost of education. An additional 23.99 percent indicated that they are not in school because they are either employed or looking for work. Mr. President, my esteemed colleagues, these figures suggest that as many as 3.4 million college-aged Filipinos were robbed of the opportunity to pursue further studies due to the prohibitively high cost of education.

Mr. President, Using estimates generated from Census 2010 and APIS 2014 data, we can see that as many as 3.4 million Filipinos aged 16-21 have dropped out of school because of financial constraints.

maliwanag ang mensahe na dala ng datos. Milyun-milyong Pilipino ang hindi nakatungtong sa kolehiyo dahil sa kapabayaan ng ating pamahalaan. Milyun-milyong pangarap ang isinasantabi dahil sa kakulangan ng salapi. Hindi ito nararapat. Hindi ito makatarungan. Nangangailangan itong ng karampatang at mabilisang lunas.

Mr. President, our national network of state universities and colleges was built specifically to address inequitable access to higher education by opening the doors of tertiary learning to all capable but underprivileged Filipino youths - regardless of their capacity to pay. My visits to SUCs across the Philippines, however, have made it abundantly clear that our tertiary public school system has failed to fulfill its mandate.

However, after having visited SUCs across the entire Philippines, it is clear that our SUC network has not been able to fulfill its mandate.

Napakamahal pong magpa-aral lalong lalo na sa ating mga kapwa Pilipino na salat sa yaman mulat sa kahirapan. Maraming mga pamilya ang napilitang mangutang o di kaya'y isangla ang kanilang ari-arian upang makapag-aral lamang ang kanilang mga anak. Ang iba naman ay napipilitan na maghanap ng karagdagang trabaho upang mabayaran ang matrikula ng kanilang mga anak. Huwag natin isangtabi ang kalbaryo na pinagdadaanan ng napakaraming pamilyang Pilipino. Ipagkaloob natin sa kanila ang agarang lingap. Tulungan natin sila.

Mr. President, as lawmakers and representatives of the People, we must take decisive action to uphold and defend the Filipino's inalienable right to pursue a college education. An underprivileged student's right to education should not be made dependent upon the generosity of charitable individuals or the patronage of politicians. We must address the issue head-on by institutionalizing a mechanism which will ensure full access to higher education for all generations of Filipinos to come.

Mr. President, the importance of ensuring full access to higher education, and its potential to build greater equality within Philippine society, becomes even clearer once we observe the empirical relationship between educational and economic outcomes.

Existing literature make it abundantly clear that Emerging studies suggest that increases in the number of years of schooling result in statistically significant increases in income generating capacity. Instinctively, this makes sense. More years in school often correspond to a greater accumulation of skills, which in turn strengthens the person's worth position in the labor market. Higher levels of education could also be argued to increase labor market mobility, security of tenure, and income stream stability.

This hypothesis is confirmed by empirical evidence culled from the 2014 Labor Force Survey. Data on the average basic daily pay of a member of the workforce show a strong correlation between educational attainment and higher wages. At 698 pesos, the average basic daily pay of a college graduate is more than twice the average basic daily pay of a high school graduate, which is 285 pesos, and more than three times higher than the average basic daily pay of an elementary graduate, which is only 215 pesos.

Maliwanag po sa akin na ang pagpapalawig ng mga pagkakataon upang makapag-aral sa kolehiyo ang isa sa mga pinakamabisang paraan upang puksain ang kahirapan. Sa pagbigay ng sapat na pagkakataon makapag-aral sa mas nakararaming kabataang Pilipino, binibigyan natin ng pagkakataon ang ating mga naghihikahos na kababayan na makaahon mula sa kahirapan.

Mr. President, Lahat po tayo rito ay nangangarap na magtagumpay ang bawat Pilipino. Lahat po tayo rito ay nangangarap na makita ang umasenso ang bawat pamilyang Pilipino. na umasenso. Mayroon tayong pagkakataon na tuparin ang mga pangarap na ito - at totoong posibleng matupad ang mga pangarap ng milyun-milyong Pilipino. Huwag nating palampasin ang pagkakataong na ito. Palawakin natin ang kasalukuyang napakakitid at napakasikip na daan tungo sa kaunlaran. Buwagin natin ang mga hadlang sa pagasenso ng ating kapwa Pilipino. Bigyan natin ang susunod na henerasyon ng pagkakataon at kakayahan labanan ang kahirapan sa ating bansa.

Mr. President, esteemed members of this august body, let us make the most of the opportunity we have been given today.

If we truly believe in the adage that - "our future is in the hands of our youth" - then let us invest in each and every one of them. Let us equip them with the capacity to usher in a brighter future for our beloved country. Let the youth them build a better tomorrow, by securing a college education today - and for all generations to come - by passing Senate Bill No. 1304 into law.

Thank you Mr. President.

News Latest News Feed