Duterte approves free education in state varsities

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Manila, Aug 4 (IANS) Philippines President Rodrigo Dutere has signed a bill to provide free education in 112 state universities in the country, a senior official said at a press conference on Friday.

Duterte signed the bill on Thursday following a meeting with lawmakers and economic advisers allowing universal access to quality tertiary education and free enrolment in all state universities, Acting Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

The President approved the law despite opposition from his economic advisers, who warned of a paucity of government funds to cover the tuition fees of hundreds of thousands of students, who enrol each year in the universities.

He had rejected their arguments saying that the long-term benefits of a well-developed tertiary education will outweigh short-term budgetary challenges, according to Guevarra.

Funding free enrolments for students at state universities would create a burden of some 100 billion pesos ($2 billion) on Philippine public funds, according to estimates by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

The 112 state universities receive a significant number of students, distributed over more than 2,000 public and private higher education institutions in the country.

Critics of the measure have also warned it could trigger an exodus of students from other public and private universities to state universities.

–IANS

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