By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Following the magnitude 6.9 earthquake which struck Davao del Sur this weekend, the Department of Education (DepEd) urged schools and other stakeholders to help in the tracking and monitoring of school damages in the affected areas.
“Yet another strong earthquake has struck Mindanao, somewhere near Polomolok in South Cotabato,” the DepEd Tayo, the Executive Committee of the DepEd, said in a Facebook post. Concerned individuals and other stakeholders were asked to “help report earthquake damage to education infrastructure” via http://bit.ly/EarthquakeAssessment121519.
DepEd clarified that “this online reporting does not, in any way, supersede” the Rapid Assessment of Damages Report (RADaR) that is “required to be submitted within 72 hours by concerned DepEd personnel.”
DepEd personnel and other individuals may tag @DepEdTayo on “photos with relevant information” or they may also use #SchoolPatrolPH for tracking and monitoring. Concerned stakeholders are also urged to share photographs, videos, and information of damages on DepEd schools, offices, or affected DepEd personnel. Other information may include the school’s name, barangay, city or town, and province of the affected or damaged schools.
DepEd directed the continuous monitoring of divisions and schools affected by disasters for infrastructure damage, casualties, and other impacts.
The DepEd has started mobilizing efforts to rehabilitate the affected schools and to extend the necessary assistance to the families of casualties and injured learners and personnel in the aftermath of any calamity.
Stakeholders are also enjoined to help the DepEd ensure that the learners are able to continue with their education. Aside from consolidated initial RADaR and dissemination of memorandum for the submission of RADaR, DepEd is also expected to disseminate education cluster updates and release memorandum for “thorough and immediate inspection” of school and office buildings and facilities.
DepEd also mobilizes its Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service (DRRMS) staff to monitor the status of their areas of responsibilities and track the regions and divisions with class suspension as soon as possible.
The other initiatives of DepEd after calamities include the provision of immediate assistance such as clean-up funds, temporary learning spaces, learning materials, hygiene kits, psychological first aid, and emergency feeding to ensure learning continuity, the conduct of detailed assessment of damages for repair and reconstruction; and continuous dissemination of situation reports to affected regions and divisions.
The 6.9-magnitude earthquake is the latest and considered the strongest in a series of earthquakes that hit portions of Mindanao – particularly the province of Cotabato – earlier.
On October 16, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake was recorded in Tulunan, North Cotabato followed by a 6.6-magnitude quake on October 29, and a 6.5-magnitude quake on October 31. On November 18, Phivolcs also reported that a magnitude 5.9 earthquake also struck Bukidnon.
QRF backlog to pile up
Earlier, DepEd said that the backlog for the repair, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by calamities this year and of the previous years has reached the P10-billion mark.
According to DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Service and Education Programs Delivery Unit Annalyn Sevilla, there is a P7-billion Quick Response Fund (QRF) backlog to address the needs of the schools that were damaged by calamities since 2017.
“During the last two years, we already have a backlog of P7bilion due for repair and replacement of schools damaged by disasters and calamities,” Sevilla said. “If minor repair [of schools] is needed, we find ways to fill this up through the regular budget but replacement [of totally damaged schools] is really a major problem,” she explained.
Following the recent earthquakes in Mindanao, DepEd estimates that the “backlog will continue to pile up” if the P2-billion annual Quick Response Fund (QRF) will not be augmented. The P2-billion annual QRF, she noted, is not enough to make up for the calamities in the previous years that are not yet addressed.
The QRF is used by DepEd to cover the repair and replacement of classrooms damaged by calamities or disasters. Sevilla explained that this is not included in the proposed regular budget of the DepEd.