“College scholarships for the poor not straining national budget”—FFW

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Major labor center Federation of Free Workers (FFW) yesterday expressed disappointment over recent statements made by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno regarding the Unified Financial Assistance to Tertiary Education (UAQTE) program.

Diokno has claimed that the UAQTE program is straining the national budget. However, FFW disputed these claims, citing that the budget allocation for the program amounts to less than one percent of the 2023 national budget.

“We cannot understand how a 1% investment on free college education can strain the national budget,” said FFW National Vice President Jun M. Ramirez.

Ramirez, who is also the union president of Vishay Philippines Inc. Employees Union-FFW, further elaborated: “Yong mga may kaya ay sa private schoolsor abroad pumupunta [Those (students) who can afford, go to private schools or study abroad],  but we should make free college education. It is  a great equalizer, making education accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic status.”

He added: “This means that if you’re interested in pursuing higher education, whether you come from a poor or wealthy background, the state should provide you with free access to quality education.”

FFW recognized that though this is a minimal allocation, it has played a crucial role in granting free college education to over two million students in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).

The UAQTE program has been a beacon of hope for countless underprivileged students, enabling them to pursue higher education and aspire to a brighter future. It has significantly reduced the financial burden on families of workers struggling to send their children to college, the FFW said.

FFW firmly believes that “investing in education, particularly for the disadvantaged, is an essential component of national development. Instead of reducing funding for the program, the FFW advocates for an increase in resources dedicated to scholarships and educational opportunities for the less fortunate.”

“Education is not an expenditure but an investment in our nation’s future,” opined Vilma Garcia, union president of  FFW at the De La Salle University Health and Science Institute in Dasmariñas City. “We call upon Secretary Diokno and the Marcos administration to instead review its stance and allocate more funds for the UAQTE program to ensure that no deserving student is left behind due to financial constraints.”

“We call on government to give scholarship to working students,  not only free tuitions but also book, transport and living allowances”, quipped Dennis Gutierrez, Union President of the Interphil Laboratories Employees’ Union-FFW.

Gutierrez further emphasized that,  “supporting education is a vital step toward expanding the middle class,  reducing poverty and fostering economic growth in our country.”

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