Pia: PH vision should ensure care for people’s eyesight

To fulfill the vision of a sustainable future for all Filipinos, the government should work on ensuring quality and accessible eye care services for citizens that will help them achieve brighter and healthier lives.


Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano in light of the celebration of World Sight Day (October 10). Held every second Thursday of October, the event seeks to draw global attention to blindness and vision impairment with the goal of preventing them.


A known health advocate, Cayetano stressed the need to protect the eyesight of all Filipinos – from young children to senior citizens. She added that poor vision and avoidable blindness remain an underreported public health issue in the country.


Data from the Department of Health (DOH) in 2017 showed that more than two million people nationwide were blind or suffering from poor vision, with an estimated 332,150 Filipinos bilaterally blind, and 2.179 million with bilateral low vision.


The senator, for her part, stressed that the passage of a new law establishing a national vision screening program for kindergarten pupils could help turn the situation around.


It was Cayetano who authored and sponsored Republic Act 11358, or the ‘National Vision Screening Act,’ which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year.


The new law seeks to establish a National Vision Screening Program (NVSP) for young pupils under the Department of Education (DepEd).


The senator said early detection of eye problems is crucial in ensuring immediate intervention and proper treatment for children suffering from early vision impairments.


“Ensuring the full well-being of our children is the first step to enable them to reach their full potential and grow up as our partners in attaining sustainable growth and development,”  she said.


Moreover, the law also paves the way for the fulfillment of our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), added Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.


Goal 3 of the United Nations’ SDGs calls on nations to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. This includes the provision of essential services based on tracer interventions like vision screening.


In 2016, Cayetano partnered with the Taguig city government and the University of the Philippines-Manila Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI) to spearhead a pilot vision screening test for kindergarten pupils in the city.


150 pupils aged five to six underwent a simple vision-screening test, about 15 of whom were found to have vision problems, and in turn, given immediate and proper treatment. #

Pia vows to increase funding for ‘Last Mile’ Schools

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has vowed to increase from P1.5 billion to P15 billion the funding allocation for the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Last Mile Schools (LMS) Program in next year’s proposed P4.1-trillion national government budget. 

Cayetano, the Senate Finance Committee vice chair, said the tenfold increase will benefit 830 Last Mile Schools located in far-flung and hinterland communities across the country.

“I have personally visited some of these schools whenever I would hike or bike to upland communities, particularly in the Cordillera Administrative Region,” she shared. 

A mountain biker and hiking enthusiast, Cayetano regularly visits upland schools in the north to bring learning materials and conduct fitness and football clinics for students. 

She said that LMS usually have multi-grade level classrooms due to the limited number of classrooms accommodating the communities’ entire student population from different grade levels. 

“Multi-grade level classrooms are actually an acceptable education model. My children grew up in this kind of setting. What is important is that the teachers are well-trained to handle multi-grade level classrooms and that the class sizes remain small,” Cayetano explained.

She said the core of DepEd’s LMS Program is ensuring that the schools’ classrooms are made of sturdy material and equipped with the proper learning facilities, including computers that have access to programs complementing the classroom teaching, and electricity. 

The DepEd had originally asked for a P21.52 billion budget for its LMS program for next year, but only P1.5 billion was approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), based on the 2020 National Expenditure Program. 

A memorandum issued by the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Finance and Administration last August, however, directed the DBM to include and prioritize the “Last Mile Schools Fund” as a new line item under DepEd’s budget in the 2020 NEP.

“We should not forget about the Filipino families in far-flung areas who also want the best future for their children,” she stressed. “This is one of my ways to ensure that in our shared goal of fostering growth through education, no Filipino child will get left behind.”

“I also hope more senators would be willing to go the extra mile to help our last mile schools, and by actively supporting tax reforms, whose proceeds will help fund social services and our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” added Cayetano, who also chairs the Senate Committees on Ways and Means and on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. 

As of September 1, there are about 9,225 schools identified as LMS, with CAR (1,223), Western Visayas (824) and Eastern Visayas (1,076) having the most number – excluding the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

According to DepEd, most LMS are more than an hour away from the town center, in places with problems in peace and order, and which private contractors, suppliers and service providers find difficult to access. 

LMS have multi-grade level classes, with less than five teachers, and a student population of less than 100, more than 75% of which are usually indigenous people. They have very limited facilities, which had never been repaired in the last four years. #

Senator Pia S. Cayetano visits students at Lamut Elementary School in La Trinidad, Benguet during her annual trek to far-flung communities in the province. (2014)

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is joined by the UP Women’s Football Team (UPWFT) during her annual trek to far-flung communities in Benguet. In 2018, the senator and the student-athletes handed out books, toys, and other learning materials to students studying at the Lusod Community School in Itogon, Benguet.

Raising teachers’ pay to help affirm dignity of teaching

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said raising the compensation of teachers is the best affirmation of government’s high regard for the country’s educators and their contributions to nation-building. 

The senator issued the statement in time for National Teachers’ Day, which is being observed on October 5 (Saturday).

A staunch education advocate, Cayetano authored Senate Bill No. 70, or the ‘Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education Act.’

The measure proposes a salary increase of P10,000 per month for public school teachers, locally-funded teachers, and non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd).

The salary hike shall be granted over three years in three tranches, starting with a P4,000 monthly pay hike on the first year, an additional P3,000 per month on the second year, and a final increment of P3,000 per month on the third year.

The bill is currently being deliberated with similar measures by a technical working group under the Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation.

“Raising the compensation of teachers affirms the dignity of the teaching profession. This will not only improve their lives, but also inspire them to further improve,” she explained.


“We have so many hardworking teachers who deserve more support. Also, we can still do better to make the teaching profession more attractive to the best and brightest,” she stressed.


“I want to be able to leave that kind of legacy to our children – that they can go to any school in the Philippines, and get the best education possible because they will be mentored by intelligent and dedicated teachers,” she added.


Cayetano pointed out that empowering teachers to successfully fulfill their role in society is part of the country’s commitments to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Goal 4 of the SDGs particularly states that by 2030, the supply of qualified teachers in the country should have substantially increased.


Apart from the salary adjustment, Cayetano’s bill seeks to grant public school teachers the following benefits: Medical allowance, a yearly bonus based on the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), and additional compensation from local school board funds.

The former chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, Cayetano has championed the passage of landmark laws that enhanced public education in the country, including the National Teacher’s Day Act (RA 10743), Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or UniFAST Act (RA 10687), Open High School System Act (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), and Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647).#

Senator Pia Cayetano: “We have so many hardworking teachers who deserve more support.”

Pia: Congress has jurisdiction to tax e-cigarettes

Amid rising concerns in many countries about the health risks of electronic cigarettes and vapes, Senator Pia S. Cayetano reiterated that Congress has the jurisdiction to impose higher taxes on these products as a means to regulate their use.


The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Cayetano made the assertion at the start of plenary debates on Senate Bill No. 1074, which seeks to raise ‘sin’ taxes on alcohol and vaping products. 

Responding to the questions of Senator Francis Tolentino, Cayetano clarified that Congress has already imposed taxes on e-cigarettes since the enactment of Republic Act 11346 earlier this year. 

Tolentino had asked Cayetano whether Congress can impose a tax on e-cigarettes, even if these products have yet to be given certification by the government through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

“As to whether we can tax a product that’s not been given permission to be sold, let me point out that under RA 11346, we (lawmakers) have already taxed e-cigarettes,” Cayetano noted. 

“So this committee is not proposing a new kind of tax. It’s already recognized by Congress under its jurisdiction. This committee is just increasing that tax,” she added. 

Cayetano pointed out that taxation is “just one tool” that would help curb these new kinds of vices. She said other pro-health initiatives should be put in place to complement the sin tax bill. 

“Taxation is not the end-all, be-all. So we must help our health department come up with measures to provide a health approach to the problem of smoking and drinking,” she said, while expressing her plan to push for additional regulatory measures on e-cigarettes.

The senator said she is in the process of drafting a bill mandating the government to “look into the harmful effects of e-cigarettes,” which shall be referred to the Committee on Health. 

She also intends to draft a measure that would regulate the marketing and ban the advertising of e-cigarettes in the country. 

“Exposure to these products will be dangerous because the science is not yet clear about its dangers. I’m concerned for the young people in general as these products can easily entice them,” she explained. 

“Our goal is to reduce people’s consumption of these sin products, on top of generating more revenues to finance our Universal Health Care program,” she stressed.

A total of 42 countries worldwide have already banned the use of e-cigarettes, while 10 countries banned the use of heated tobacco products (HTPs) due to growing evidence that such products are dangerous to people’s health.

Earlier this year, the FDA gave manufacturers, importers, and retailers of e-cigarettes three months to register and comply with specific regulations before they could sell their products legally.

These include a license to operate and the issuance of a certificate of product registration. The three-month period is set to end this October. #

Senator Pia Cayetano: Taxation is “just one tool” to help curb new kinds of vices. She said other pro-health initiatives should be put in place to complement the sin tax bill. 

Pia: Let’s build a nation of winners!

Co-sponsorship speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Senate Bill No. 1086, establishing a Philippine High School for Sports

Mr. President,

This is a happy day for me because I drafted and filed this bill 9 years ago. I was so much younger then and ran so much faster. But so did the presiding officer. 

It is no secret that I am a believer in sports, and I believe that sports can change lives. I am proud to be a member of a Senate where majority of the members include sports in their lives:

Needless to say, Sen. Manny Pacquaio is considered as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time.

Senator Manny Pacquiao is the only boxer in history to win world titles in eight different weight divisions.

The Senate President, Philippine National Team in bowling, garnered gold several times, and currently is a golf enthusiast who still continues to win tournaments.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III was a 7-time member of the Philippine bowling team. He competed twice in the World Cup and was an international gold medalist in ten pin bowling.

Our Majority Floor Leader, Migz, National Champion and 1989 World Champion. I saw the video and I wish we could play it. But please interpellate me later on so I can play that World Championship… the winning moves. I think a few kilos lighter. 

Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri was a world Arnis champion.

And then we have our “never say die” basketball players. Sen. Joel Villanueva, a UST Growling Tigers UAAP champion 1994-1995 and Philippine national team.

Senator Joel Villanueva played for the UST Growling Tigers champion team and the Phllippine national basketball team.

And then Senator Sonny Angara, who is part of the Senate Defenders – that is the official name of our basketball team. 

Senator Sonny Angara plays for the Senate Defenders. The team actively competes in inter-government agency basketball tournaments, such as the UNTV Cup.

Sen. Bong Go, who brings serious professionalism to the games that he plays with the likes of my brother. He was part of the roster of the Muntinlupa Cagers in the Maharlika Basketball League, a pro league started by Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

A known supporter of sports in Davao City and national athletes, Senator Bong Go was part of the Muntinlupa Cagers’ roster in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, my batch mate in UP, we were both UP volleyball Maroons. And he was also a track and field runner – a track runner. 

Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan was a track athlete and volleyball player for the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons.

Next is Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, I approached him to ask for a picture. That is actually not his main sport but that is his current sport. Correct? Am I correct? But his sport as a young athlete included soccer, swimming, and taekwondo. 

Young Senator Ralph Recto played football, swimming and taekwondo. His current sport: Boxing.

So again, please interpellate me so that I can put the pictures – the appropriate pictures of Sen. Recto while I am defending this bill. 

And then our main sponsor, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian. That was the… I actually failed to get the full description, but the picture speaks for itself. 

The principal sponsor of SBN 1086, Senator Win Gatchalian, played basketball in high school at Grace Christian School and in college at Boston University.

And yours truly, a UP Maroon and National Team Player for Volleyball as well.

Senator Pia Cayetano was part of the last UP Lady Maroons squad to win a UAAP championship. She also played for the Philippine National Women’s Volleyball Team.

Anyway, so now that I have put you all in a better mood, the sad reality we face. Mr. President, is that many of our young athletes who show talent are usually forced to choose between an education and sports. That window where they can shine as an athlete is not open for a long time. They must take advantage of that moment in time. And if they miss it, the moment is gone. 

Because of that, some choose to give up schooling, others give up their sports.  Those who give up schooling take a huge risk. Betting on sports alone for your future is a shot in the dark.  Not everyone gets to be a Manny Pacquiao. After their moment in the lime light, without an education, they have little to fall back on. 

I’d like to share another story, which is the story of many athletes today. One of my lawyers, Joei Gana-Teves – she made it to the Philippine volleyball youth team. But her teacher did not believe in sports and considered her absent every time she attended practices and threatened to fail her when she had to leave for one week to participate in the Asian youth games.

She then made a choice to go to the games and was very much impressed but at the same time saddened that other countries like Singapore and Malaysia, had a national sports high school where they were able to study and do the sport they love at the same time. 

But this need not happen, Mr. President.

In countries that take sports seriously, they start at a young age. Those who show talent are given the chance to train with the best coaches and with equally talented and driven athletes. They are able to do that because they have sports centers all over the country and they have sports schools – high schools and universities. National sports schools and universities.

I had the privilege of visiting some of these sports high schools in Germany and Spain. The young athletes were able to focus on their sport but at the same time continue their studies.

Fast forward, and obviously, Senator Bong Go and I have the same source. We both have visited New Clark City. This was very early in 2018, when we did some groundbreaking. This is the initial stages of the construction. 

Construction of New Clark City Athletics Stadium started in 2018.

Fast forward, not even two years later. This is the New Clark City today….

The New Clark City Athletic Stadium. (September 6, 2019)

This aerial photo was actually taken from Gretchen Ho. I borrowed that from her. If you look at the main circle, that is the stadium, and the track in the middle is the main track. You will wonder, why is there another track on the upper right side. Well that is the practice track, the warm up track. That is required to have that Class 1 certification. 

And, if you look at the next picture I am about to show, so this is the picture of the actual track and stadium, the next picture. Okay, the one on the right is an actual requirement also to get that Class 1 certification. It is an 80-meter indoor track where you warm up just before your event is called. So you have those two warm up tracks in addition to the main track. That is air-conditioned by the way. 

I happened to visit a few weeks ago, and those are national track athletes that I was running with. 

This is the swimming pool. Take note, that is an 8-lane, 50-meter pool. But that is just the warm up pool. The main pool is 10 lanes and has a bigger capacity. And then on the right side is the diving pool. So together, this is also a world-class certified aqua center, the only one in the country. 

This is the dormitories, the same photo that Sen. Go showed you. We actually have the national triathlon team and the national track and field team living in these quarters now. And pretty soon, this will be the home of the Southeast Asian Games athletes who will come here to participate in December. 

New Clark City is a sustainable city that will house our athletes for the SEA Games. And this is also where this sports school will be built.  

It is envisioned that the students will have access to vocational, sports, and academic tracks so that each of them can still fulfill their own dreams.

Mr. President, Senate Bill 506, which I filed, is considered in this Committee Report. However, my version, Mr. President, specifically has a provision that says that the track will not be limited to sports. Because there are athletes who dream to be other things, to be more than athletes. They can be an athlete and they can have other professions as well. 

Just because I am only familiar with the UP graduates, I use them as an example. Mr. President, UP has produced, among others, two summa cum laude graduates, one with a BS in Math, summa cum laude, and another one with a BS in Sports Science who went on and is currently in her third year in med school with PGH UP College of Manila. They did this while being in the varsity of UP. The BS Math major was a Judo player, and the other one was a volleyball player. 

Assuming that there was a high school for sports when they were younger, it would have been really sad if we limited them to a sports program, because clearly, they had the ability and the desire to do something else as well. 

And that is why we are also pushing for programs beyond sports to be offered for Senior High here. Mr. President, I call on your support dear colleagues. Let us help make these individual dreams come true and at the same time build a nation of winners.

Thank you. #

Senator Pia Cayetano delivers her co-sponsorship speech of the bill seeking to establish a Philippine High School for Sports. She showed throwback photos of senators competing in their favorite/chosen sports – to the delight of her colleagues.

Pia: PH is global ‘inuman’ champion; Sin Tax Reform to save lives

The Senate Ways and Means Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Pia S. Cayetano, has presented to the plenary Senate Bill No. 1074 seeking to increase excise taxes on sin products, with the objective of augmenting funds for universal health care and protecting citizens, particularly the youth, from the harmful effects of drinking and electronic cigarettes. 

Delivering her sponsorship speech on Wednesday (September 25), Cayetano stressed the need to impose “significantly higher” tax rates on alcohol, e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco products (HTPs) in order to safeguard Filipinos’ health and wellbeing.

Cayetano’s committee is proposing the following excise tax rates for the different types of alcohol products:

Distilled spirits: an ad valorem tax of 20% and a specific tax of Php 90 per proof liter on Year 1, to be increased by  Php10 every year until Year 4, and by 10% every year thereafter.

For fermented liquor and alcopops: a specific tax rate of Php 45 per liter on Year 1, to be increased by Php10 every year until Year 4, and by 10% every year thereafter. 

For wine products: a specific tax of Php 600 per liter for sparkling wines and Php 43 per liter for still and carbonated wines, to be increased by 10% every year thereafter.

The Ways and Means Chair explained that the specific tax rate on distilled spirits was raised to Php 90 because they have the highest alcohol content among the different types of alcohol products, and as such are the most harmful to people’s health. 

Furthermore, the Committee proposed to tax e-cigarettes, HTPs, and vape products the same rate as conventional tobacco products.   

The Committee proposed to tax HTPs at P45 per pack of 20 in 2020, increasing such rate to P5 per pack per year like regular cigarettes. For vape products, the recommendation is to tax those containing freebase nicotine at P45 per 10ml or a fraction thereof; and those containing nicotine salts at P45 per 1ml or a fraction thereof. 


In pushing for higher taxes on alcohol, Cayetano said there is “glaring evidence” that the excessive use of such products endangers people’s health. 

“Alcoholism is associated with at least 39 main diseases, including liver cirrhosis, cancer, pancreatic disease, hypertensive disease, tuberculosis, diabetes, and even behavioral and psychotic disorders,” she said, citing a report by the Global Burden of Disease Study.

Also, World Health Organization data revealed that in 2016, 4,431 per 100,000 population of Filipinos died from liver cirrhosis; while 16,418 died from hypertensive diseases; and 8,526 from tuberculosis. 

“All of which were due to the excessive use of alcohol,” Cayetano pointed out. 

“The impact of our problem on alcoholism is not felt by the drinker alone,” she further stressed, adding that excessive drinking is also a common cause of road crashes and a contributor to family violence.

The senator lamented that, with these products becoming more accessible to vulnerable sectors, there is a risk that these numbers and incidents would continue to grow. Hence, the need to increase their prices and make them less affordable.

Cayetano said the measure seeks to address the high drinking prevalence among Filipinos, who on average are already consuming 11 liters of hard alcoholic beverages per year. This is higher than the global and ASEAN averages of below 10 liters. 

“Global champion na po tayo, sa inuman.  But that is not something we should be proud of,” the senator said, adding that the prices of alcohol in the country should not be so cheap as to allow Filipinos, especially the young people, to easily have access to them.

E-cigs and HTPs

 “For the sake of our children, we must regulate and tax e-cigarettes at parity with regular tobacco products. Other countries are already doing this. We should at least keep pace.  Vaping is not cool when it leads our kids to the path of new addictions,” Cayetano said about e-cigarette products.

The senator questioned the position of manufacturers and distributors who claimed that e-cigarettes are a viable and less harmful alternative to conventional smoking.

“The industry claims that it is a safer product but medical experts have pointed out that safer does not mean safe or risk-free. We have already seen and heard an avalanche of news of people who died because of lung failure in the United States – people who were consistent users of these vape products,” she said.

“Thus, Mr. President, this representation asks that we err on the side of caution,” she added during her speech.

Apart from the sin tax bill, Cayetano said she plans to file more measures seeking to address the country’s problems associated with alcoholism and the dangers of vaping among the youth.

“This Committee is tasked with the taxation of these products. But this, in no way, limits DOH [Department of Health] and Congress to undertake steps to protect the health of the people,” she said.

“We remain cognizant that taxation is just one tool and that a comprehensive strategy is necessary. We urge DOH [Department of Health] to work with our medical community on this through aggressive interventions and policies.” #

Senator Pia Cayetano: “Global champion na po tayo, sa inuman.  But that is not something we should be proud of.”
Senator Pia Cayetano: “For the sake of our children, we must regulate and tax e-cigarettes at parity with regular tobacco products.

As polio returns, Pia presses intensified info drive on vaccination

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is strongly urging health officials to step up their efforts in convincing Filipino mothers to have their kids vaccinated, following the health department’s declaration of a polio epidemic in the country.

The principal author and sponsor of the Mandatory Infants and Children Immunization Act (RA 10152), Cayetano expressed  alarm that the Philippines has lost its polio-free status.

The senator made the call after the Department of Health (DOH) reported that a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur was recently diagnosed with polio, marking the return of the dreaded illness to the country after two decades. 

Exactly a month ago (August 19), Cayetano delivered a privilege speech in the Senate to call attention to  the risks brought about by the country’s deteriorating vaccination rates, particularly for the poliovirus. 

In her speech, she said if mothers continue to refuse having their children immunized, the spread of the virus could just be “a snap of a finger away.”

“Since the year 2000, we have already been declared polio-free. My children grew up at a time where there was no more polio. After 19 years, it’s so sad that this (disease) may actually come back,” she stressed.

“All these diseases have already been eradicated or are close to being eradicated because we’ve had a successful vaccination program throughout the decades. But now, mothers are suddenly not bringing their children to the health centers to be vaccinated,” she added.

As early as the 2019 campaign period, the senator has been going around the country reminding health workers on the ground to educate mothers about the importance of vaccination. 

“Because of the (dengue vaccine) scare, ang conclusion ng mga nanay ay masama na ang lahat ng bakuna. But time and again, we kept on repeating that this is not true,” she said.

Cayetano called upon the DOH and local government officials to conduct more enticing information drives to keep promoting the government’s immunization program.

“As public servants, we are tasked to ensure that the welfare and health of our children are properly protected. So if we need to shake things up a bit, I think we really should,” she said, reiterating her call a month ago.

“We deprive the life of these children – a life that could be spent climbing trees, playing sports, or enjoying other physical activities – if we let their mothers disregard the importance of vaccination,” she added.#

A month ago, Cayetano delivered a privilege speech in the Senate to call attention to  the risks brought about by the country’s deteriorating vaccination rates, particularly for the poliovirus. 
Cayetano called upon the DOH and local government officials to conduct more enticing information drives to keep promoting the government’s immunization program.

Pia: Finance panel approves 2020 budget for CHED, SUCs

The Senate Finance Committee has approved on Thursday (Sept. 19) the proposed 2020 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and 110 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in the country, following a subcommittee hearing led by Vice Chair Senator Pia S. Cayetano. 

With the approval, CHED’s P40.78-billion proposed allocation for next year will be submitted for plenary deliberations, along with the P49.46-billion proposed budget for the 110 SUCs. 

The committee, on the other hand, deferred the approval of the proposed P15.40-billion proposed funding for the University of the Philippines (UP), pending the institution’s submission of required documents to the committee for review.

Cayetano, the panel’s vice chair, has expressed commitment to review the major cuts in the higher education sector’s proposed funding, with the goal of finding a way to bridge the gap, which CHED officials pegged at P11 billion. 

“The biggest concern of CHED and SUCs is that they have at least P11 billion [budget cut] that is meant to finance [various education programs]. Ito ang hahanapan natin ng pondo,” the senator said in an ambush interview after the hearing.

“These are [for] students who have previously been awarded scholarships, and then may incoming graduates din na mag-aavail [ng scholarships], so may shortage tayo diyan,” she further explained. 
Cayetano said she is already looking into possible sources for the additional funding, among which are unobligated funds from the agencies’ 2019 budget.

“Ang ine-expect kong makuha doon sa mga hindi nagamit, mga unobligated [funds] nila is around P8 billion,” she said, clarifying that the amount is still subject to verification. 

“We consider our human resources as the most important resource that we have. So their education is very important. I already have the source for funding. We just have to rationalize and prioritize projects,” she added. 

The senator further pointed out that the country can still do better in terms of financing the education sector. She cited that the government is spending only 3.9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education, lower than the six-percent recommendation of the United Nations.    

“Our Constitution requires that we prioritize education. Nasusunod naman natin na the biggest agency that receives funding is education. [But] if you compare our spending with other countries, medyo talo tayo. Mas mataas ang spending sa atin ng Laos at Vietnam,” Cayetano noted.

Furthermore, she clarified the status of UP’s budget, which the committee has deferred. 
“On UP, humingi kasi ako ng development sa status ng projects, because a big portion of the higher education budget goes to UP. And I have been a big supporter [of UP’s budget] for many years,” the senator asserted.

“I just want them to properly explain to me what these programs are, the projects, the timelines, the status, so that tuloy-tuloy naman tayong makatulong sa UP at responsible naman tayo sa paglagay ng pondo,” she added. 

During the hearing, Cayetano also vowed to provide additional government support in accelerating infrastructure development for SUCs. She filed Senate Bill No. 64 or the “Build, Build, Build” for Higher Education bill, which lays down a five-year capital outlay plan for state-run higher education institutions.#

Light moment at the finance committee hearing as senators applaud a manifestation of Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa.
Senate finance committee vice chair Pia Cayetano has vowed to review major cuts in the higher education sector’s proposed funding, which CHED officials pegged at P11 billion.

Pia: We need to put in more funding for higher education

Transcript of interview with Senator Pia S. Cayetano, Senate Finance Committee Vice Chairperson. Topic: Budget hearing for the Commission on Higher Education and (CHED) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs)  

Q: Ma’am, please give us an overview of the hearing and your thoughts tungkol sa budget ng SUCs, ano ang next step ng committee?

Senator Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): Of course, budget, finances ang pinag-uusapan. And the biggest concern of CHED and the SUCs is that they have at least P11 billion that is meant to finance yung education – kumbaga, sa madaling salita, parang scholarships ng mga bata – na na-cut, na nabawasan. 

So, P11 billion yung hahanapan natin ng pondo. These are students who have previously been awarded scholarships and then may incoming din na mga graduates na mag-aavail, and may shortage tayo diyan. 

We need to address this because we consider our human resource the most important resource that we have. So their education is very important. 

And let me put on record that if you compare our spending with other countries, medyo talo tayo. Our Constitution requires that we prioritize education. Totoo naman, nasusunod naman natin na biggest agency that receives funding is education. However, the recommendation of the UN is 6 percent. And we are only spending 3.9, almost 4 percent. Mas mataas ang spending sa atin ng Laos at ng Vietnam. At alam mo talagang itong mga bansang ‘to, naghahabol, diba?

So dapat tayo, huwag lang din tayong kampante. Kailangan mag-invest pa rin tayo sa education sector. 

I also took note and pointed out that the SUC presidents and CHED also have a role to play. They have to be able to submit all the requirements to prove the funding is properly used. 

But on that note, I am happy that I had 5 or 6 other colleagues who all support education. So I am hoping that they will support my initiative to put in more funding for education in general, capital outlays of the SUCs, and the funding of the education itself through scholarships and grants.

Q: Ma’am, yung P11 billion, may idea tayo kung saan pwedeng i-source out?

SPSC: Pwede naman nating… ang proposal ko nga is tingnan yung doon sa mga hindi pa nagamit nila na budget, yung unused portion nila, and they will give me the final amount. Kasi, meron nung 2018 na nalipat nila sa 2019. Pero ‘pag may natira pa doon, dahil may 2019 budget din, baka pwede tayong kumuha doon. 

Q: Hopefully, sapat na po ‘yun…

SPSC: Well, I don’t know kasi P11 billion yung total, and ang ine-expect kong makuha doon sa mga hindi nagamit, mga unobligated nila is parang P8 billion lang. 

Mga P8 billion is what I hope to get, but that’s subject to verification nila na hindi nagamit yung P8 billion na yun.

Q: Ang hindi na-submit ng UP, ano po ang mga kulang pa nila?

SPSC: Marami, humingi kasi ako ng development sa status ng mga projects, kasi syempre malaking part ng budget [ng SUCs] ang UP, malaki talagang portion of the higher education budget goes to UP. And I have been a big supporter for many years.

I just want them to properly explain to me what these programs are, the projects, the timelines, the status, so that tuloy-tuloy naman tayong makatulong sa UP. Yun lang naman ang sa akin, so that responsible naman tayo sa paglalagay ng pondo.#

Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Pia S. Cayetano leads the subcommittee hearing that discussed the proposed 2020 budget for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).

Pia on CITIRA: There’s no forever, but we must ensure certainty

Transcript of interview with Ways and Means Committee Chair Pia S. Cayetano

Topic: Corporate Income Tax and Incentive Rationalization Act (CITIRA) Bill

Q: Regarding the CITIRA hearing, anong chances na makakalusot this session ang bill na ito?

Senator Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): Well, let me just give a very short statement. Love, just like business, is a two-way street. So, you need to have mutual respect and both parties need to have something to gain from staying together.

So, when I look at all the information being given to me, my job is very simple – to analyze what the Filipino people have to gain with the existing incentive packages that we are offering hundreds and thousands of investors.

The job is fairly simple. And, I have to also say na just like love, wala ring forever. But, there is such a thing as long-term. But it must also ensure that throughout that process, the parties are in a very happily productive relationship.

So that’s my goal, to find that sweet space, that sweet spot, that the Filipino people, the Filipino youth, the employees of our future, have something to gain with the investments, with the investors that are bringing their business in the country.

Q: Nakita na ba ang sweet spot na yun? How many more briefings are needed?

SPSC: Nabubuo naman. And, my outlook is very positive because I have the patience to see this love affair through. 

Q: Will you push for the mechanism na binanggit n’yo kanina na magkakaroon ng opportunity ang investors to sit down and express their concerns and actually have them answered?

SPSC: I think you have seen through the hearings that I’ve conducted, even in this Congress alone, ginagawa ko naman yun eh. And even in the past congresses, even in the most controversial hearings that I conducted on reproductive health, and even on divorce, when I was in the Lower House, everyone can have the opportunity to say their piece. 

Q: Ilang hearings pa ang tingin niyo ma’am na bubunuin?

SPSC: Mga ilan pa, mga ilan pa. Hindi ito agad matatapos. But, we’re working on it, working progress, so I’m about to wrap up the hearings on the 2+, which is the e-cigs and the alcohol. Patapos na yun. And then CITIRA naman ang paumpisa ngayon. 

Q: What can you say about the proposal of Sen. Zubiri about the 5-7 years of sunset provision?

SPSC: I will not give any comments yet on details of any proposal, because it’s my job to receive all the different proposals. So as you noted earlier, it was still a proposal by the DOF, and even then, wala pa naman masyadong details on that. So I will digest everything. No comment yet ako.

Q: Ma’am, si Usec. Karl kanina said in passing that they hope it will be passed by this year. And even Sen. Zubiri raised concern about the uncertainty that has lingered over the past 2 years. What is your game plan knowing this?

SPSC: Thank you for asking that question. Again, I liken it to a love affair. If you’re asking me why, I think it’s a very important topic for even those who are not in business to understand. So I am just using it as an analogy for people to understand.

Just like a love affair, ang pinaka-importante sa lahat is the certainty, right? Dapat alam mo kung kayo pa rin. Dapat alam mo kung gini-ghost ka na. Dapat alam mo kung break na pala kayo. Dapat alam mo kung may problema, right?

So, you can rest assured that the Chairman of the Committee is cognizant of the need for certainty, and not just in the industries, but really in our economic future. Certainty is, I think, the most important thing that we need to be able to give to investors, employees, everyone.

Q: Do you see this getting passed by the end of the first regular session?

SPSC: The first regular session? Oo naman. When I say oo naman, oo naman may pag-asa. I don’t mean na papasa. I’m saying, oo naman, may pag-asa.

Thank you!

Senator Pia Cayetano: As Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, [I am] cognizant of the need for certainty, and not just in the industries, but really in our economic future. Certainty is, I think, the most important thing that we need to be able to give to investors, employees, everyone.