NAVAL, Biliran -- Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago challenged the student leaders here on Tuesday, February 7, to speak up on issues of the society.

Speaking to around 300 attendees of the 2nd Provincial Student Leaders' Congress (PSLC) held in the province, Elago emphasized the role of the youth and the importance of having free education.

The PSLC is an annual activity of the Federation of Student Councils, Supreme Student Council, and the Pillar Publication of the Naval State University.

Elago said the youth should speak up and engage with local leaders in addressing the issues of the community.

"The role of the youth must be consistent in fighting for their right to have a quality education," Elago said.

Elago discussed the House Bill 4800, or the Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Act, which seeks to provide free college education for all.

The Foundation of Economic Freedom (FEF) criticized the proposed bill, saying it will benefit higher-income students and could cause unfair competition to private institutions.

FEF said providing more budget to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) for free tuition is "anti poor," as it only considers tuition in the cost of higher education.

FEF added that tuition covers only one-third of the cost of a college student. The group furthered that the cost of living allowances, which the poor cannot afford, should be considered as well.

The group said higher-income students will end up using the free tuition subsidy.

Elago answered the critics by saying that students in SUCs are from the poor sector.

"Halos lahat ng mga estudyante ng State Universities and Colleges nanggaling sa mahihirap. Halos 80 percent lower income brackets endorsed in SUCs," Elago said.

Elago also encouraged the FEF to check the policies that democratize education. (John Cavin Sabonsolin)