Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday challenged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to come up with a new set of “earth-shaking” reforms in the higher education sector in order to make Philippine universities and their graduates more competitive with their Asian counterparts.
In a manifestation during the Senate debate on the 2023 CHED budget early morning of November 18, 2022, Cayetano urged the commission’s officials to aim for more transformative policies in the sector, describing the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) as one such policy.
“We want to challenge CHED, next to UniFAST, ano y’ung agency-sponsored legislation niyo na earth-shaking na makakatulong talaga sa ating mga estudyante na hindi lang makapasok sa kolehiyo, makapagtapos, get the best opportunities, but also have a brighter future,” he said.
“We can go through the pages of the budget, and we agree that the sector should have a larger budget, but we do expect a breakthrough in the next few years,” the senator added.
UniFAST is among a slew of programs mandated by the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, signed into law in 2017 during the Duterte administration, which enabled the implementation of tuition-free education in state universities and colleges (SUCs) and expanded access to scholarships and financial aid for students who wish to enroll in college.
Cayetano acknowledged that while there were questions raised by senators regarding alleged red tape within the higher education agency as well as problems with the delivery of cash aid to students, he said he was hopeful that these will be addressed in the next few years.
“Looking ahead, we will be talking about how we could compete with the best universities in Asia, and how our students can get jobs, hopefully not only abroad but here,” he said.
The senator also urged CHED Chair Prospero “Popoy” De Vera III, first appointed by the Duterte administration and reappointed in 2022 by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to maximize his renewed mandate in overseeing the development of tertiary education in the country.
The Senate approved early Friday morning the P30.7 billion allocation for CHED in 2023, being the last agency budget to be approved by the chamber before the General Appropriation Bill moves to the bicameral committee phase.