May 2, 2012
ANGARA URGES EXPANSION OF FINANCIAL AID FOR EDUCATION
Senator Edgardo J. Angara called on the government to scale up initiatives providing financial support for education, after President Benigno Aquino III announced in his Labor Day speech the approval of an P11.2 billion educational assistance fund available to members of the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
Angara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, welcomed the establishment of the Educational Assistance Fund Program (EAFP) but added that even more similar initiatives will have to be rolled out.
"Some 200,000 SSS members and 1.4 million GSIS members will gain governmental support towards financing their education, or even their children's education. These numbers are really significant," said Angara, author of the law creating the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE), the largest scholarship program in the country.
"But, an even greater portion of our population will still be unable to pay for their schooling. More will have to be done if we are to truly expand opportunities available to our people."
According to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, P4.2 billion will be allotted for GSIS members, while P7 billion will go to SSS members. GSIS members will be able to borrow up to P4,000 at 6 percent interest, payable over five years, while SSS members with a salary of up to P10,000 can receive as much as P120,000 in assistance.
During budget hearings in 2011, Angara called for the establishment of a central government institution that will provide accessible financial assistance to both students and teachers.
The veteran lawmaker underscored that this will be a long-term solution to the country's perennial problems in education, which include inaccessibility due to high costs. He also suggested that such an institution could work hand-in-hand with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank for financing.
"We're headed in the right direction, but what we need to do now is to institutionalize further government's commitment to providing assistance for education," stressed Angara, who is also a former UP President. He also authored the Free High School Act and the newly enacted Kindergarten Education Act.
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