MAGALANG -- The Commission on Higher Education (Ched) will speed up creation of guidelines for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) to tap P3-billion funds in Bayanihan 2 for flexible learning.
Senator Joel Villanueva urged the Ched to immediately craft the necessary guidelines to implement several provisions under the Bayanihan 2 law.
The lawmaker said this law was designed to help SUCs implement flexible learning programs and assist displaced teaching and nonteaching personnel, as well as students to cope with the new normal.
Villanueva also lamented the deep budget cuts that SUCs suffered on their capital outlay, which could have financed their transition to flexible learning, as the conduct of face-to-face classes remains prohibited with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Villanueva asked Ched chair Prospero de Vera III to work with SUCs on their P3-billion allocation to help them set up smart campuses that will help in the implementation of flexible learning systems.
"We only have roughly three months to take the opportunity and tap the P3 billion pesos for the development of their ICT infrastructure and help in the implementation of flexible learning, since the Bayanihan 2 is only effective until December 2020," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate higher education committee.
"When we proposed this amendment, our vision is to have the fund equally and equitably distributed to all the SUCs as soon as possible, with the least possible bureaucratic processes," he added.
De Vera and Dr. Tirso Ronquillo, president of the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (Pasuc), committed to work together and seek to have the distribution of the fund "equitably" among SUCs.
Villanueva also expressed concern over the significant cuts the budget department made on the capital outlays of SUCs, which should have allowed them to "adjust to this new mode of teaching and learning."
"I'm looking at the budget for SUCs. Parang naguguluhan lang po ako. Yung mga SUCs, iba-iba po yung increase, yung iba umaabot ng 3,000 percent increase, meron naman iba na ang laki ng bawas... We want to find out what is the basis for this?" he said.
Villanueva also sought Ched's plans on implementing the P300 million subsidies and allowances for displaced teaching and nonteaching personnel at higher education institutions, as well as the P600 million subsidies and allowances for qualified students at all education institutions, given that the Bayanihan 2 law would expire at the end of the year.
The lawmaker pointed out that the provision on subsidies and allowances came from the concerns raised by teachers, school workers, and students, who shared the difficulties they experienced at online synchronous classes.
Villanueva said a student may need to spend at least P45 daily to watch four hours' worth of school video materials, based on industry average that a typical 1-hour video consumes 480 megabytes of data, and 1 gigabyte (1,000 megabytes) of data is worth about P23.
"This is precisely why we pursued this provision, so that we can help our students cope with the demands of our times today," Villanueva said.
Ched data showed that in Academic Year 2018-2019, there were 136,186 faculty members in higher education institutions, which are in SUCs, local government-run universities and colleges, other government schools and HEI, and private HEIs.
De Vera admitted that the provisions posed a challenge to the commission, but Villanueva quickly pointed out that senators are more than willing to help the education sector as seen in the efforts of the Upper Chamber in providing for their needs.