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Friday, June 6, 2008

Gov't hitting two birds with one stone via student loan scheme

'SAFE-4-SR as VAT-deodorant, smokescreen for educ budget cuts'

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) today criticized Malacanang's Student Assistance Fund for Education for a Strong Republic (SAFE-4-SR) program saying that it is a mere 'VAT-deodorant' and that it does not address the problem of poor state subsidy for state colleges and universities (SUCs).

CEGP National President Vijae Alquisola said that the SAFE-4-SR may be described as a 'double whammy' for students in that it is 'not even a genuine subsidy for SUCs but a student loan program meant to pass on the burden to students who are also laden with government's VAT imposition.'

Under the SAFE-for-SR, P500 million will be allotted to 60 thousand needy Iskolars ng Bayan in their junior and graduating years through a 'one-time P8,000 interest-free loan'.

The P500 million allegedly came from the 'fruits of VAT collection' from oil and electricity during the first quarter of this year.

"With the SAFE-for-SR, Mrs. Arroyo attempts to hit two birds with one stone by flaunting alleged fruits of the highly unpopular VAT while riding on students' popular protest against the rising cost of education during this season of opening of classes," Alquisola said.


Alquisola said that the SAFE-for-SR, like Arroyo's statement of a tuition moratorium in SUCs, is a mere attempt to smokescreen the problem of yearly budget cuts for SUCs.

Alquisola cited that for this year, SUCs got a meager share of 1.84 percent of the national budget compared to last year's 2.74 percent allocation. He added, "Malacanang' s statement that SUCs have no reason to hike their tuitions for this school year because budget for SUCs was increased is completely false."

"In fact, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines which collects the cheapest tuition fee among SUCs has not had an increase in budget since Arroyo assumed office in 2001. If anything, it has suffered a total of approximately P6 million in budget cuts over the years."

Alquisola said that subsidy-sprees and student loan programs such as the SAFE-for-SR fail to address the problem of low government spending for education as the root cause of SUCs' inability to accommodate more needy students in the tertiary level. ###


Vijae Alquisola, National President, 09162034402

Sarah Katrina Maramag, Deputy Secretary-General, 09193486790

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