Senator Recto appeals for the augmentation of DepEd’s classroom budget

Published November 5, 2019, 7:16 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday appealed to his fellow lawmakers to hear the Department of Education’s (DepEd) appeal for additional funds for the construction and repair of school buildings and classrooms following the earthquakes in Mindanao.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto (Ali Vicoy / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto

“DepEd’s school-building budget for 2020 should be augmented in the light of the damage sustained by the 500 classrooms and 700 school buildings during last month’s earthquakes in Southern Mindanao,” Recto said in a statement.

“Congress cannot be impervious to a tragedy which threatens the schooling of millions of children. It is duty-bound to increase the DepEd’s capital outlay funds, because the provision of a safe environment for learning should be given the highest reconstruction priority,” he added.

The Senate leader noted that the DepEd was allocated by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) with a P20 billion budget for its school building program for 2020. But the DepEd, he said, originally requested P171.7 billion for the item.

According to DepEd, public schools lack 64,795 classrooms. The DBM-proposed fund could only cover 8,000 new classrooms, he lamented.

Recto, however, said the lack of fund was aggravated by the earthquake that destroyed schools in Mindanao last month.

“DepEd’s construction budget was already in a calamitous state before the earthquake struck. Kulang na nga ang pondo, lalo pang pinalala ng lindol,” Recto said.

The DepEd earlier said that it needs at least P1.6 billion to replace the hundreds of classrooms damaged by the strong tremors. The replacement buildings would reportedly cost about P2.5 million each.

“DepEd is not asking much to replace the classrooms damaged, just P1.6 billion, which is within the power of the Senate and the House to grant through next year’s general appropriations,” he told his colleagues.

Meanwhile, Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. urged the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local government units to conduct an immediate review of existing buildings and structures to determine the compliance on the National Building Code.

He filed a resolution on Monday formalizing his appeal.

“Dapat ngayon na isagawa ang inspeksiyon at audit ng mga buildings at structures, hindi ‘yung kada lilindol pag-uusapan, pag-hupa tigil din ang usapan, pag-lindol usap na naman (The inspection and audit of buildings and structures should be conducted right now, and not only during after earthquakes. The discussions should not end when communities have moved on from calamities),” Revilla said in a statement Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sen. Francis Tolentino, in separate privilege speeches in plenary, have also appealed to their colleagues to expedite the passage of the proposed creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience and other related measures.