MANILA -- Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, chairman of the House appropriations committee, on Tuesday lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing into law the PHP3.767-trillion national budget for 2018. 

In a statement, Nograles said the approved General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2018 provides hope to Filipinos as the key provision of a tuition-free college education could change the "lives of countless people." 

He added that the approved national budget also offers "the promise of economic progress" through ample funding for the administration's massive infrastructure program dubbed as "Build, Build, Build". 

"When we talk about providing hope to our people, no other national budget in the country's history can match this GAA. It is brimming with hope as well as the promise of economic progress via Duterte's "Build Build Build" program," Nograles said.  

Nograles highlighted that the PHP40-billion allocation for the free college education program covers students from the country's 114 state universities and colleges (SUCs), 16 local universities and colleges (LUCs), and 122 technical-vocational institutions (TVIs).  

"By allocating P40 billion to cover for the tuition and miscellaneous fees of students in all State Universities and Colleges, young Filipinos will be armed with the most important tool in ensuring success in their lives - a college education," he added. 

He urged the Commission on Higher Education to launch an information drive about the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act 10931). 

"This will make sure that no college enrollee from even the far-flung barrios with dreams of obtaining a college diploma would be left behind," Nograles said.  

"Things have changed, and it's certainly looking up for the Philippines in 2018." 

Nograles said other salient features of the GAA lined up for the education sector, include the increase in cash allowance for public school teachers from PHP2,500 to PHP3,500 with an allocation of PHP770 million, as well as the increase of PHP10 million each for all SUCs for capital outlays.  

Nograles also said there is funding allotted for the purchase of body cameras for Philippine National Police (PNP) members amounting to PHP334 million   

Meanwhile, the supposed PHP900 million budget for OPLAN Double Barrel was realigned for the housing of members of the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). 

Nograles said the base pay hike for cops and soldiers, which was recently approved on final reading by the House, has a budget allocation of PHP63 billion.   (PNA)