Senator Win Gatchalian on Tuesday hailed the swift enactment of landmark legislation which seeks to establish universal access to college and post-secondary technical-vocational education for all Filipinos.
The bicameral conference report of Senate Bill No. 1304 and House Bill No. 5633 was ratified by the Senate during its session on Tuesday.
After the House similarly ratifies the report of the enrolled bill, now known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, it will be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature into law.
“In the span of less than a year, the Senate and the House have worked hand-in-hand to pass the most revolutionary reform of our country’s public higher education system in decades. This remarkable piece of legislation will raise access to tertiary education in the Philippines to the same standard as progressive developed countries such as Germany, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. I applaud my congressional colleagues for taking concrete action to uphold and promote the inalienable right of each and every Filipino to quality education at all levels,” said Gatchalian, the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and co-author of the Senate Bill No. 1304.
If passed into law, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act would exempt all qualified Filipino students pursuing their first undergraduate or certificate degree in state universities and colleges from the payment of tuition or other school fees.
The bill also provides a similar exemption for qualified Filipino students enrolled in state-run post-secondary technical-vocational institutions.
“As long as they maintain good academic standing, no student pursuing their first degree at any public tertiary or post-secondary institution of learning will ever have to pay a single centavo in tuition or other school fees,” explained Gatchalian.
The tuition and school fees exemption shall also apply to local universities and colleges after Gatchalian pushed for the inclusion of LUCs during the bicameral conference. The senator’s proposed amendments were eventually incorporated into the final version of the ratified bill.
“In my experience, LUCs can also play a major role in expanding access to college education. That’s why I moved for their inclusion in the tuition exemption,” said Gatchalian, a former three-term mayor of Valenzuela City.
The senator also hailed the free education policy as a critical building block for long-term inclusive economic growth, explaining that “investing in intensive human capital development is key to fostering innovation, increasing economic productivity, and alleviating poverty through the dignity of work.”
“The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act is a key stepping stone towards achieving the Philippines’ ambitious long-term socio-economic vision under the Ambisyon Natin 2040 plan,” added Gatchalian, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.
Gatchalian has been a steadfast advocate for free public education since his days as a congressman.
As Representative of the First District of Valenzuela City to the 16th Congress, Gatchalian filed on July 6, 2015 the original version of the free tuition bill: House Bill No. 5905, otherwise known as the Free Higher Education Act.
With passage of the Free Higher Education Act as his main campaign advocacy, Gatchalian won a seat in the Senate during the May 2016 elections and re-filed the Free Higher Education Act (Senate Bill No. 198) as one of his priority measures on June 30, 2016.
SBN 1304 is the consolidation of bills filed by several senators, including SBN 198.