Lapid eyes moratorium on student loan payment during disasters, emergencies

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Lito Lapid on Wednesday said he has filed a bill seeking to provide moratorium on student loans during times of disasters and emergencies like the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lapid said he recently filed Senate Bill 1538 which seeks to defer the collection of payment of all charges and costs relating to the student loan programs for Higher Education and Technical-Vocational Education and Training during calamities and emergency situations.

“Hindi natin mapipigil ang pagdating ng kalamidad o disaster sa ating bansa at walang may gusto nito, pero ang tanging magagawa na lamang natin ay tulungan lalo na ang ating mahihirap na kababayan na hindi lamang makaahon kundi masiguro na ang kanilang mga anak ay tuloy ang pag-aaral at huwag muna nilang problemahin ang loans at utang sa kanilang eskwelahan, ” Lapid said in a statement.

The senator underscored that during times of crisis, Filipino families prioritize their basic needs and the proposed measure would help them without neglecting their children’s education.

“Karaniwang ang prayoridad ng ating mga kababayan sa ganitong mga panahon ay pambili ng pagkain, gamot at pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan. Habang ang mga gastusin sa edukasyon gaya ng tuition o iba pang bayarin sa paaralan ay isasantabi na muna ng ilang pamilya dahil wala na silang natitirang salapi para dito,” he said.

“Kaya sa pamamagitan ng paglalagay ng moratorium sa students loans ay makakatulong tayo para maisalba kahit papaano ang edukasyon ng ating mga kabataan,” he added.

Under the bill, the moratorium shall take effect after the national or local government declares a state of calamity or emergency.

The student loan payment deferment shall cover the period of such declaration up to 30 days until its termination.

If the declaration exceeds 60 days, the payment of student fees may be deferred untl the end of the next academic semester or term.

The moratorium will cover loans administered by the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) or by the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Board, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) or any other government agency and instrumentality.

The bill also states that a student’s enrollment or graduation eligibility is protected even if the moratorium would be availed of.

The measure also mandates the retroactive application of the moratorium to students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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