STUDENTS from the 21 campuses of the state-run Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) are gearing up for simultaneous protest actions to dramatize their opposition against tuition increase for incoming freshmen this school year.

Leaders of student councils from the PUP campuses and branches in Manila, Quezon City, San Juan, Taguig, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Batangas, Cavite, Oriental Mindoro, and Laguna gathered in Manila Tuesday to announce their planned mass actions.

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Donna Pascual, PUP Student Regent and convener of Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Konseho ng PUP (Anak-PUP), said a system-wide alliance of PUP student councils, centralized, and decentralized protests will be spearheaded by the student councils nationwide starting Wednesday until the PUP Board of Regents meeting on March 29.

The PUP Board of Regents is set to discuss the pending proposal on the tuition from P12 per unit to P200 per unit on March 29. About 66,000 incoming freshmen will be affected by the fee hike.

Aside from PUP, 233 private colleges and universities nationwide are also set to increase their tuition and miscellaneous fees this coming school year.

“The tuition increase will affect mostly students from poor families. This is a very important national issue that should be addressed by presidential aspirants. We challenge them to make a stand on the proposed tuition hike in PUP,” Pascual said.

Vencer Crisostomo, secretary-general of Kabataan Party-list, echoed Pascual’s statement.

“Those who promise to advocate better access to education, a better future for our youth, and those who declare that they want to help the poor should make a categorical stand against the proposed tuition hike in PUP and other state universities,” said Crisostomo.

The Kabataan Party-list said a clear platform against tuition increases and for affordable and accessible education is expected of every presidential candidate.

“The next president must increase the budgetary allocation and state spending for education and should impose a moratorium on tuition hikes,” he said.

On March 24, Wednesday, Anak-PUP will hold another protest action in front of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) National Office at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

Students from PUP campuses, meanwhile, will be holding simultaneous protests in front of Commission on Higher Education (Ched) Regional Offices in their respective provinces and regions.

Anak-PUP will be joined by their fellow “Iskolars ng Bayan” from the University of the Philippines and Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Technological Institute (Earist) who are also protesting new fees and tuition hikes because of poor budget allocation for state colleges and universities.

The other day, militant students also staged a brief protest action at the Ched main office and called on the Commission’s chairman, Dr. Emmanuel Angeles to address the issue.

Earlier, Ched Executive Director Julito Vitriolo urged the PUP Board of Regents to hold a meeting and consultations before the implementation of the proposed tuition increase.

Vitriolo said the proposed tuition hike at PUP should undergo consultation with the parents and students instead of being unilaterally imposed.

He likewise stressed that at the onset, the proposed tuition hike appeared to be without basis since PUP is a State University that gets an annual budget from the government.

Several senatorial candidates in the May 10 polls such as Representative Liza Maza, Representative Satur Ocampo, as well as lawyer Adel Tamano of the Nacionalista Party have already expressed their support to the students.

Likewise, presidential candidate Bro. Eddie Villanueva also voiced his support for a moratorium on tuition increase.

Maza and Villanueva are both PUP alumni. (AH/Sunnex)