Photo grabbed from ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio’s Facebook account

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Alliance of Concerned Teachers lauded Friday President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the Free on Higher Education Act which will implement non-collection of tuition and miscellaneous fees for all government-run colleges and universities.

In a statement Friday, Benjamin Valbuena, national chairperson of ACT said the President’s approval of the law “will expand the access of the Filipino youth to higher education.”

“We praise President Duterte for standing against the position of his economic managers,” Valbuena said citing the position of Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority Director General Ernesto Pernia who previously expressed that the government will not be able to fund free education in the tertiary level.

“It seems that these two economic managers are not working for the government, they are more of a spokesperson for the private education businessmen,” said Valbuena.

Duterte, who received the bill almost a month ago, signed the proposed measure on Thursday night.

In a press conference in Malacañang, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said “free tertiary education in state universities and colleges is a very strong pillar or cornerstone of the President’s social development policy.”

“He weighed everything and came to the conclusion that the long-term benefits that will be derived from a well developed tertiary education on the part of the citizenry will definitely outweigh any possible short-term budgetary challenges. So if there’s a will — as we say — if there’s a will, there’s a way,” Guevarra added.

Poor families

Valbuena said according to the data submitted by the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) to the Senate Committee on Education “77 percent of the students in the SUCs are from the families of minimum-wage earners and below.”

“This data shows that majority of the students are struggling daily to support expenses needed in their studies and that imposition/collection of fees (tuition and miscellaneous) may further erode their hope to finish college education,” he said.

Valbuena said poor students are mostly workers too to help the family finance his education.

“We want to help our students focus on their studies so they can develop fully their potentials and achieve holistic development and the legislation of the Free Higher Education Act will help us towards this end. As educators, this is our goal for our students,” added Valbuena.

Meanwhile, the Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy in UP (CONTEND-UP) in their statement said higher education has an “indispensable role” in the society.

“Investing in the higher education of our youth benefits not only the individual but the entire country. Higher education has an indispensable role to play in gathering and transmitting the collective resources of human capability, human reasoning and human purposefulness to create a humane and prosperous society,” it said.

ACT added that after the President approved the law, the government should ensure that the bill will have enough fund for its implementation.(

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