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Philippines' Duterte signs free education law

President presses ahead with free tuition for tertiary students despite a lack of government funds

Philippines' Duterte signs free education law

Philippine university students call for free education during a forum in Manila in January. (Photo by Mike Taboy)

August 4, 2017

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President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, a law providing free tuition for Filipino students at 112 state universities and colleges.

The president signed the law despite opposition from his economic advisers who said the government did not have the money to sustain the program.

Palace spokesman Menardo Guevarra said "free tertiary education ... is a pillar or cornerstone of the president's social development policy."

Congress will make the decision on how to fund the implementation of the law.

Guevarra said official development assistance from other countries could be a source "to help tide us over especially for the first few years."

The implementation of the law will require at least US$2 billion, according to the Department of Budget.

Youth groups welcomed the government announcement, describing it as "an initial victory not only for the youth today but also for future generations."

"We have to keep vigilant, however, on possible limits that may be inserted in the new law," said Sarah Elago, youth representative in the Lower House of Congress.

She said students should also press for "quality education" and "spur the movement for genuine nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented type of education."

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