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CHED says no misuse of P10-billion fund

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Wednesday defended the use of a P10 billion worth of funds, supposedly for the scholarships of tertiary students, which Northern Samar 1st district Representative Paul Daza claimed was being misused.

In a statement, CHED chairman Prospero de Vera III stressed that the Higher Education Development Fund (HEDF) was put in the CHED charter to fund projects to “strengthen higher education.”

“It is not a scholarship fund. I do not know where the idea of a P10B scholarship fund came from,” he said in a statement.

He was reacting to Daza’s allegations in a House Committee on Higher and Technical Education hearing on Monday that the P10 billion was being used for other purposes.

That time, the committee was discussing Daza's House Resolution No. 767 which calls for the government to improve access to tertiary education and reduce attrition rates among 4Ps beneficiaries and other deserving and financially challenged students by increasing the budget allocation for scholarships.

“The earmarked funds is what we call an off-budget. By law travel tax, PRC, and PCSO shares go to that fund. That’s supposed to be for higher education. If CHED did its job and engaged DSWD and if they continue the 2012 grant-in-aid which was incorporated in the law, they could have helped a few hundred thousand students a year,” Daza said.

“Nandon po ‘yung pondo [The funds were there]. They were using part of it. They could’ve answered that these funds were available, but they didn’t… They were using it for other pet projects that I think is probably being misused and that’s what I want to ask CHED and UniFAST,” he added.

De Vera also cited the Tourism Act of 2009 which states that the use of travel tax contributions, which is the biggest bulk of the HEDF fund, “should prioritize tourism related projects and courses.” This law further requires the Department of Tourism and CHED to work together in the regulation and development of undergraduate and graduate degrees in tourism.

With this, De Vera said that the HEDF provides grants for tourism related projects; and grants to HEIs for equipment and facilities in priority programs to help them comply with quality assurance standards to get Certificates of Program Compliance or required in conversion from state colleges to universities.

He also said that the HEDF is being used to implement laws passed by Congress that are not funded in the National Expenditure Program or General Appropriations Act, like K-12 graduate scholarship or research programs, and equipment for medical schools.

“Accusing CHED of misusing public funds is a very serious allegation. We reiterate that HEDF funds are used consistent with the CHED law and Tourism Act, and grants to HEIs have been provided since the past administrations,” De Vera said.

Baguio City Representative Mark Go on Monday said the committee will call for another hearing to discuss the matter.—LDF, GMA Integrated News