Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela (Courtesy of Resty Robert Castro/Valenzuela City PIO)

MANILA – The 2023 national budget guarantees local universities and colleges (LUCs) will receive reimbursements for the implementation of the free higher education program.

In a news release on Friday, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said he proposed the immediate reimbursement for the program under Republic Act (RA) No. 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education law.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will validate the number of enrollees and the amount to be reimbursed.

The free college education law exempts students enrolled in state universities and colleges and CHED-recognized LUCs from paying tuition and other fees.

During the budget deliberations, Gatchalian flagged Section 55 of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10931, which state that LUCs that do not charge tuition and other school fees before the law’s enactment cannot claim reimbursement until a policy on composite fees is adopted.

Gatchalian said it runs counter to the law’s intent, adding that there is no condition in the free college education law that would disqualify any LUC from claiming reimbursement for the implementation of the free higher education program.

The senator said it is unfair for LUCs that have been implementing free higher education even before the enactment of the law.

Using Section 55 of the free college education law’s IRR as basis, the Commission on Audit earlier flagged the reimbursement of PHP250.9 million to three fully subsidized LUCs -- Taguig City University, Valenzuela City Polytechnic College and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela.

Titiyakin natin na sa susunod na taon, ang ating mga local universities at colleges ay agarang makatatanggap ng pondo para sa pagpapatupad ng libreng kolehiyo. Dahil layunin ng batas na ito na mabigyan ng oportunidad at dekalidad na edukasyon ang ating mga kabataan, mahalagang matiyak natin na ang batas sa libreng kolehiyo ay naipatutupad nang maayos (We will make sure that next year, all LUCs will immediately receive funds for the implementation of the free college law, since its aim is to give opportunity and quality education for our youth. More importantly, we must ensure that the law will be implemented properly),” Gatchalian said. (With a report from Leonel Abasola/PNA)