Free Tuition law signed; students demand speedy implementation, warn of loopholes | BICOL TODAY

Free Tuition law signed; students demand speedy implementation, warn of loopholes

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By Joey Natividad

CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region – President Duterte’s signing into law Thursday and made publicFriday the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, giving free tuition and no “other school fees” collection policy to students of SUCs, LUCs, and voch-tech is met with warm applause by the academe, parents, and students.

Youth group Anakbayan gave credit to students, parents and administrators for this “victory of collective struggle for free education”.

Rewinding backward, protests have pushed Duterte to support the people’s demand for free education, despite the opposition of neoliberal diehards in the cabinet led by DBM Sec Diokno.

“This is proof of the bankruptcy of the neoliberal framework of commercialization and privatization. This is proof that free education for all is possible and just,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan national chairperson.

Kabataang Partylist calls for vigilance

Meanwhile, youth party Kabataang Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said: “The passage of the Free Tuition Law is an initial victory not only for the youth today but also for future generations. We have to keep vigilant, however, on possible limits that may be inserted in the new law’s IRR.”

However, Elago warned that Congress has to address the problem that economic managers have excluded any type of funding for the free tuition law in the 2018 proposed national budget.

Based on the 2018 National Expenditure Program, the government’s economic managers expect all state schools to collect tuition totaling P9.1 billion next year.

“Not a peso should be collected if we want to actualize the real spirit of the new law,” Elago pointed out.

“At the home front, the student movement still has a lot of battles to wage — the issue of other fees that might be collected, the actual and swift implementation of the ‘No Collection’ Policy, the high cost of other living expenses for students (food, lodging, transportation, etc), and of course, the big elephant in the room — the yet-to-be slayed high cost of matriculation in private schools,” Elago warned.

Urban poor families to benefit

At the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, Chairperson Terry Ridon thanked President Duterte for signing the law.

Ridon, then Representative of Kabataang Partylist before joining Duterte, had campaigned for free education during his term in Congress.

Ridon said signing into law the free tuition bill will be one the most important legacies of the Duterte administration, as it ensures state support to the future of the nation.

“Millions of urban poor families aspiring for a better future of the children and families will benefit from the new law. In fact, this is a culmination of decades of struggle of the student and youth movement in the Philippines,” Ridon said.

Militant students warn of flawed implementing rules and regulations

On the youth militant sector, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) welcomed, with reservations and vigilance, the new education law.

But, NUSP expressed caution and reservations.

“This is a tactical victory for the Filipino youth and the general public’s fight for free education. However, we still denounce those contentious provisions that we have pointed out in the past,” said NUSP National Spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim.

“NUSP calls to scrap the preferential guarantee for private higher education institutions. This is guaranteed profit to private universities as a way to appease private interests, a student loan program was included in the bill to somewhat ‘cover’ for their losses brought about by decreased enrollment,” said Lim.

“We will not stand idle with the passage of this law. We should be vigilant as Duterte’s economic managers could reverse this victory by issuing a flawed implementing rules and regulations (IRR). We are calling for the immediate implementation of no tuition and other school fees (OSF) collection policy,” said Lim.

“Our fight for free education for all continues as tuition and other school fees collection, profiteering schemes, and neoliberal policies on education remain in full force. Students and youth nationwide will mount sustained protests, particularly on August 31 (Thursday), to assert our fundamental right to free education,” concluded Lim.

Militant student group League of Filipino Students (LFS) applauded the signing into law, declaring it as students’ victory for asserting their right for education.

“Today, the mass movement stands triumphant. The youth and students, along with the long and unwavering tradition of collective action have proven that the demand for free education is not only legitimate but possible and at arm’s reach,” LFS national spokesperson JP Rosos said in a statement.

“This is a slap in Diokno’s face and all Duterte’s economic advisers and officials that stress over profit of private institutions rather than concern themselves with the welfare of the youth, of the people. This is an illustration of how agents of neoliberalism continue the rotten practice of transforming education–a basic right–and other public services into money-making schemes,” Rosos continued.

“Upon acknowledging the strides we have made, we must also recognize that the fight is not yet over. This victory serves as a stepping stone to fully eradicate our education system of its commercial, colonial, and fascist culture,” Rosos said. []

Posted by on August 4, 2017. Filed under Headlines,Nation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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