By Anthony Pagapulaan

PHOTO: Eagle News

There were no pandemic funds to be distributed for students in private tertiary institutions in 2022 as stated in the proposed national budget, the Commission on Higher Education revealed Thursday, September 9.

During a hearing for the agency's suggested budget in Congress, ACT Teacher's Party-list representative France Castro questioned CHED chairman Prospero De Vera III over its future COVID-19 response.

"How come there was no financial aid or response to COVID-19 in 2022? Is this something that hasn't been made public yet? Do we have enough money in 2022 to pay for those?" said Castro, in Filipino.

De Vera responded to the lawmaker by saying that while they did not allot the monies for student help in 2022, they did make a push for it in the planned Bayanihan 3 bill, which has yet to pass Congress.

He also revealed that they have spent P300 million to pay unpaid tuition fees of private school students under the Higher Education Tulong Program (B2HELP) under the RA 11520 or the Bayanihan 2, making them seek for more allotment.

"We suggested it to Bayanihan 3, claiming that our disbursement was very efficient. We helped over 60,000 learners and expended the P300 million we were given in just two months," De Vera said, in Filipino.

In addition, the CHED chairman said they asked for half a billion from the Bayanihan 3, which the House version included, however, they are not certain if it will be reflected in the bill.

"We left it out of the NEP (National Expenditure Program) in the hopes that it would be reintroduced in Bayanihan 3. As a result, there was no financial assistance for students in the NEP 2022," he added.

NEP constitutes the specifics of the government's proposed initiatives, which are submitted to the House of the Representatives to aid in budget considerations.

In response, Castro said the Congress will scrutinize the budget and will include the aid for students, which De Vera thanked for, saying that they will immediately distribute it to beneficiaries should it be considered.

"If the Congress will give us the funds, we will implement it immediately. We have been efficient in implementing the funds under the Bayanihan 2," De Vera said, in Filipino.

Report source: GMA News