BAGUIO CITY — Amid the lingering effects of recent natural calamities and disasters, Representative Sarah Elago of Kabataan Party-list is pushing to halt tuition and fee hikes on all educational institutions.

The youth solon filed House Resolution 657 on January 21 that seeks to impose a national moratorium on Tuition, and Other School Fees (TOSF) increases on all educational institutions. The measure intends to ease the existing economic stress brought by typhoons in Northern Luzon and the Visayas, the successive earthquakes in Mindanao, and the recent eruption of Taal Volcano, among other recent calamities.

“[A] tuition moratorium is necessary to give the people a much-needed respite as they rebuild their homes and their lives while ensuring learning continuity,” Elago said.

She noted that this is aside from immediate support through relief and aid that the government should give to the people.

“Now is also the right time to tackle our bill on building permanent evacuation centers, having witnessed the dire effect of calamities one after the other on the operation of public schools,” she added.

The moratorium also encompasses higher education, with emphasis on private colleges and universities. According to the group, more than half of the 3.2 million tertiary students are in private institutions. The Commission on Higher Education has recorded TOSF increases averaging 10.83 percent for Tuition Fees and 12.82 percent on Other School Fees for the past two years, compared to 6.9 percent each during the school year 2017-2018.

The solon attributed the TOSF increase to the enactment of the TRAIN Law. According to her, the tax policy increased prices for food and other commodities, alongside excise taxes on specific consumables.

Elago emphasized that halt to TOSF increases is long overdue. She said the deregulation and privatization policies made education costly. Meanwhile, wages and salaries remain low.

“Any TOSF increase spells an additional burden aggravated by already high prices of goods, meager salaries, and contractualization on top of the dire impact of rice tariffication law on farmers and agriculture at large,” she said.

During the second half of 2019, Typhoons Tisoy (Kammuri) and Ursula (Phanfone) brought significant agricultural and infrastructural damage to the central Philippines. Bicol, Eastern and Central Visayas Regions, and some parts of Calabarzon and Mimaropa incurred most of the damage. Many schools in typhoon-hit areas suffered substantial structural damage. This condition forced educators to use makeshift tents for classrooms and “double-shifting” of classes.

Meanwhile, Typhoon Quiel (Nakri) and the Northeast Monsoon ravaged Northern Luzon, especially the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, and Apayao. The destruction brought by strong winds, rains, and flooding compounded the heavy losses incurred by farmers from the drop of palay (unmilled rice) prices due to the Rice Tariffication Law.

The series of Magnitude 5 and above earthquakes that hit Cotabato in October and Davao del Sur in December also displaced parents and students. In October, the Department of Education said the strong tremors caused the indefinite suspension of classes affecting 1.9 million students. Affected were 3,800 schools in the Bangsamoro (BARMM), Davao (Region 11), and Soccskargen (Region 12) regions. The quake in December also destroyed 31 schools in regions 11 and 12.

This January, the Taal Volcano eruption affected the education of around 2.4 million students according to DepEd data. The possible magmatic eruption and related seismic activities rendered schools in towns in Batangas and some parts of Cavite to be unsafe for conducting classes. Meanwhile, evacuees are using the 1,600 classrooms in 141 public schools beyond the 14-km-radius danger zone, making them temporarily unusable. The calamity already displaced around 31,000 learners and personnel from the public school system. # nordis.net

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