By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A teachers’ federation on Tuesday renewed its call for the Senate to “thoroughly review” the 2020 house-approved budget in light of earthquakes in southern Philippines.
In light of the recent series of earthquakes in Mindanao, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines once again urged the Senate to reconsider the re-channeling of alleged “war and pork funds” to livelihood and services through a review.
“The recent quakes in Mindanao add to the justness and urgency of our call for livelihood and services to be prioritized in the 2020 budget deliberation,” said ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez. “The dismal state of our schools, hospitals, and our workers adds to our overall vulnerability in cases of disaster,” she added.
Citing data from the Department of Education (DepEd), ACT noted that around 500 classrooms have been destroyed by the quakes while 700 more have suffered major damages. “At least Php1.6 billion and more than a year is reportedly needed to restore and repair these,” Martinez said. “DepEd, however, expressed worry that their resources may not suffice as funds were ‘depleted’ in repairing schools that had damages from the previous school year,” she added.
For ACT, this just goes to show how “lacking” the budget is for education. “The allocation hardly covers the bare minimum of requisites for our schools to stand and operate, rendering us severely ill-equipped when disaster strikes,” Martinez said. “And just as we do the rest of the year, teachers bear the brunt of the state’s neglect to the point of putting our lives on the line,” she added.
Martinez cited the case of one teacher in Makilala, North Cotabato “who was hospitalized after hollow blocks fell on her head as she was taking her students to safety during the earthquake.” She added that “teachers will protect at all costs their students and have time and again gone the extra mile to ensure their welfare, but they remain to be undervalued by the government.”
ACT argued that the 2020 budget “only provided Php31.1 billion for the pay hike of over 1.5 million civilian government employees which a ‘far cry’ from the DBM-declared Php150 billion requirement to increase to Php30,000 the entry-level pay of teachers, who make up about of half of government workers.” For the More group, “more is needed to substantially raise the salaries of other public sector employees.”
The group then called on Senators to be “judicious” in deliberating the 2020 budget and “ensure that it will serve the government’s primary mandate to protect and improve the welfare of the Filipino people through better livelihood and services.”