Amid concerns about the sustainability of the government’s free higher education program, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Popoy De Vera maintained that the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA) remains relevant as it continues to give hope to many young Filipinos who dream of finishing their tertiary education.




“I do not agree with that because it depends on your philosophy of education,” De Vera said in a mix of English and Filipino during a televised public briefing on Monday, Sept. 18.

De Vera was referring to the statements of Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Benjamin Diokno who noted that implementation of free tertiary education may not be sustainable and to offering it to all students may be “wasteful and inefficient.”


Instead of questioning the relevance of the program, De Vera pointed out that focusing on the role of education and identifying the government's responsibility in providing education to the youth is far more important.

While others see “education is a privilege,” De Vera noted that for him, it is the responsibility of a government to provide opportunities to its youth.

“One way of making people believe in government is to give them hope that there is a better way, there’s a pathway to improve themselves, their families because the worst thing that we can do is to make our young people hopeless,” De Vera said.

“If there is no hope, mamu-mundok iyan so wala nang kinabukasan (they will go to the mountains so there’s no future ahead),” De Vera warned.

“Kapag nawala ang pagkakataon ng mas magandang kinabukasan (When the opportunity for a better future is lost), that’s very, very dangerous for young people,” he added.

To address the concerns on its sustainability, Diokno has been proposing to review the free college program and to “filter” the beneficiaries through a national exam.

However, De Vera deemed that this may “not be necessary” since public higher education institutions (HEIs) already administer entrance exams.


Just like in any other government program, De Vera said that the free higher education program can be “corrected” without setting aside the UAQTEA law.

“Lahat naman ng programa ng pamahalaan, pwede mo i-correct dahil may data ka naman on the ground (You can correct any government program because you have data on the ground),” De Vera said.

The review, he explained, should prioritize what “we should focus on and what should we change” like the target beneficiaries and the criteria --- among others.

“I-correct natin kung ano ang kailangan i-improve (Let's correct and improve what needs to be changed),” De Vera noted.

During his visits to various public HEIs nationwide, De Vera said that many students have expressed fears that the program will be halted.

“Ang nakakatakot na sinasabi ng iba, kapag sinabi mong wasteful ang government expenses, hindi sustainable, etc… ang pagkakaintindi ng marami ay maaring tanggalin ang programa altogether (What's alarming to some is that when you say government expenses are wasteful, unsustainable, etc… many people interpret it as potentially removing the program altogether),” he added.


Source: Manila Bulletin (