Gatchalian says ROTC bill to cost gov't P38 billion a year if passed

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian says the proposed Reserve Officers' Training Corps bill would cost the government nearly as much as the free tuition law

Aika Rey

Published: 5:55 PM August 22, 2019

Updated: 6:20 PM August 22, 2019

NOT CHUMP CHANGE. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian says the estimated amount for the ROTC bill is as expensive as the free tuition law. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The proposed Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program will cost the government some P38 billion annually, "not chump change," said Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday, August 22.

During the hearing on the proposed measure, Gatchalian, the chairperson of the Senate committee on basic education, said the estimated cost of the program per school is about P3.2 million based on the initial computation submitted by the Department of Education.

There are a total of 11,817 public senior high schools nationwide, which would mean a total cost of P38.4 billion.

"Napakahalagang i-compute natin ng mabuti. Magkano ba talaga ang kakailanganin natin for this new and improved ROTC? And if suportado ba ng executive [branch]?" Gatchalian said.

(It's important that we compute this thoroughly. How much do we really need for this new and improved ROTC? And does the executive branch support this?)

For perspective, Gatchalian noted that the allocation for the free tuition law was about P40 billion annually when it was implemented in 2018. This year, the budget lodged under the Commission on Higher Education for the implementation of the free tuition law amounts to P51 billion.

Prior to the passage of the measure, the free tuition law was opposed by economic managers for being "too costly" for the government.

Gatchalian raised this concern for the proposed ROTC program as well.

"If you are looking at P38 billion, this is not chump change. We need a big allocation. We don't want a scenario where we will save funds, but get instructors who are not highly qualified, and then we will have a problem with the implementation. We will not see a new and improved ROTC," the senator said.

Youth groups oppose the proposed mandatory ROTC, fearing it might increase army presence in schools.

In the previous 17th Congress, the House of Representatives passed its version of the measure, which sought to make ROTC mandatory for all students in Grades 11 and 12, in all public and private senior high schools.

Senators did not pass the controversial measure in the 17th Congress due to "lack of time," despite President Rodrigo Duterte certifying it as urgent.

Duterte, in his 4th State of the Nation Address last July, revived calls for the passage of the mandatory ROTC program in the 18th Congress. – Rappler.com