Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian is pushing for the urgent passage of his proposed “Free Higher Education Act” that would make state universities and colleges “tuition-free,” as the fate of the children of farmers in the Cagayan Valley hangs in the balance amid the dry spell that threatens to destroy their families’ livelihood.
The Philippine Information Agency last month reported that at least 14,000 farmers had been affected by the dry spell in the province of Isabela alone.
“The dry spell does not only affect farmers’ livelihood and their families’ sustenance today. In the long term, the loss in earnings ultimately affect the family’s capability to send their children to school and get them to finish college, which would give the children access to higher paying jobs and opportunities,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House Committees on Basic Education and Culture and on Higher and Technical Education.
In April, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) acting Administrator Dr. Vicente Malano already warned that the El Niño phenomenon, which affects at least 30 provinces, might even worsen toward the end of the year.
Just last week, the province of Isabela has been put under a state of calamity because of the agricultural damage caused by the dry spell. The phenomenon has affected more than 61,000 hectares of cornfields, with damage reaching P700 million.
Gatchalian pointed out that the government not only has to help farmers through the calamity fund but should also extend aid to the farmers’ children who are having difficulties in continuing their higher education because of the dry spell affecting their families’ livelihood.
“Having the children finish college is one way to enable farmers and their families to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, but they cannot do it alone. The government has to help the children of farmers who are studying in college. It is the government’s responsibility to protect the right to education,” the Valenzuela City representative said.
Gatchalian filed House Bill No. 5905, also known as the “Free Higher Education Act”, which will fully subsidize tuition fee in all SUCs for all current and future enrollees provided they maintain good academic and moral standing.
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In the Family and Income Expenditure Survey 2012, a household led by a college graduate earns an average family income that is more than twice that of a family headed by one who has only finished high school.
If signed into law, Gatchalian’s bill will give farmers and their families a great relief in terms of managing household expenses.
“The measure I filed will give indigent households, who have difficulty making ends meet, some peace of mind and security in knowing their children can go to school and finish college.
Higher education in turn will give the children access to better economic opportunities and make their lives and their families’ better,” said Gatchalian. (Monica Cantilero)