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Gatchalian wants intel funds realigned for P4B free higher education shortfall

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, flanked by Rep. Francisco Benitez and Mayor Javier Miguel Benitez (right) at the Education Summit in Victorias City on Thursday.*Rep.. Benitez FB page photo

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Senate Committee on Basic Education chairman, wants the intelligence funds of some national government offices realigned to restore P4.1 billion shortfall for free higher education in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in 2024.

Gatchalian, who was the speaker at the Education Summit in Victorias City on Thursday, October 5, in an interview said the Senate is discussing the realignment of some of the intelligence funds for the SUCs.

During the hearing on the proposed 2024 budget of the Commission on Higher Education and SUCs, Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges President Dr. Tirso Ronquillo reported that the projected Program of Receipts and Expenditures for 2024 is P25.8 billion, Gatchalian said.

However, the National Expenditure Program only allocates P21.6 billion for free higher education in SUCs. The Program of Receipts and Expenditures is based on tuition and other school fees multiplied by the enrollment rate.

“I will really work hard to find that P4.1 billion to fill in the gap next year,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian, in his speech at the Education Summit in Victorias, also reiterated the need to improve students reading and math skills.

Grade 4 Filipino learners scored the lowest among their peers from 57 other countries in math and science in the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, he said.

Gatchalian, in a press statement Thursday, said he will soon be filing a bill that aims to update the Magna Carat for Public School Teachers (Republic Act No. 4670).

Among the new provisions that he will introduce is the grant of a special hardship allowance to mobile teachers, including Alternative Learning System (ALS) teachers, he said.

He will also seeks to protect teachers from out-of-pocket expenses and non-teaching tasks. There are also provisions for teachers’ basic rights and longevity pay, Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian emphasized the need to ensure full implementation of the law aimed at improving the living and working conditions of public school teachers.

He pointed out that it has been 57 years since the law was passed, yet some of its provisions have not been fully realized.

One such provision is Section 22, which entitles public school teachers to a free annual physical examination, the senator said.

Gatchalian noted that while the Department of Education (DepEd) has provided for some monetary medical assistance since 2019, there is still no program for the annual check-up of teachers as mandated by the Magna Carta.

Another concern is Section 26 of the law, which stipulates that a retiring teacher should be promoted one rank higher, and the salary of that rank should be the basis for calculating retirement benefits, he said.

However, the current method of computation used by the Government Service Insurance System relies on the average monthly compensation that the employee received during the last 36 months of service prior to retirement, he said.

Gatchalian said while Section 31 of the Magna Carta requires the DepEd Secretary to submit the annual budgetary requirements to implement the Magna Carta, the agency only submits an omnibus budget request to Congress for its annual needs.*

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