Friday, 23 January 2009

Philippine classroom fund raised from P3 B to P8 B

Senate, House approve P1.4-trillion national budget
Congress gives DepEd P8 B for schools construction

By MARIO B. CASAYURAN and SHIANEE MAMANGLU
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20090123146391.html

The decision of the Senate and the House of Representatives to increase the budget for the construction of school buildings from P3 billion to P8 billion to minimize the classroom shortage is a bright spot in the proposed 2009 P1.4 trillion national budget that Congress approved and would be sent to President Arroyo for signing.

Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, chairman of the Senate education, culture and arts committee, said the amount will be used to construct 10,666 classrooms, thereby reducing the classroom gap which, in the 2006-2007 school year, stood at 74,115. There are 65 pupils/students per class or 90 and above per class in extreme cases.

"We can’t neglect our children’s education at this time of crisis. Our children’s future is important," Roxas said, disclosing that he is giving up his P200 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more popularly known as pork barrel.

Roxas called on the public to closely monitor President Arroyo’s implementation of the P1.43 trillion national budget to prevent its misuse for charter change and partisan activities.

Roxas bared that he has not received any of his PDAF allocation since the latter half of 2005 after the Liberal Party (LP) which he heads withdrew its support to the Arroyo administration.

In his sponsorship speech of the Senate-Lower House bicameral conference committee report on the 2009 budget, Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee and head of the Senate bicameral conference committee, said the conference committee re-aligned P1.927 billion from other agencies to the Department of Education (DepEd).

Angara said another P1.17 billion has been realigned to State Universities and Colleges.

Asked for comment, the DepEd said that the bigger pie for school buildings will augment the current needs of the department and ease up the shortages in classrooms.

"This is one demonstration of how supportive our people in the legislature are. We stand to benefit from this, especially the public schools. It is something very pleasing. This is a most welcome development,’’ said Mila Talino of the DepEd Planning Division.

She admitted that even as computers or books are augmented each year in various schools, budget for addressing laboratory concerns, among others, is always wanting.

Citing past studies by the Third Elementary Education Project (TEEP), she said that 15 percent of existing classrooms are beyond economic repair. This means that an additional P15-billion should have been appropriated then to replace the classrooms.

Talino also clarified that DepEd’s official declaration of classroom shortages in 2007 was 20,587 at 1:45 double shift, while there was 41, 000 classroom shortages at 1:45 single shift in 2006. "Classroom shortage was reduced to 6,000 in 2006 after President Arroyo imposed a policy for a 1:50 double shifting,’’ she said.

"In 2007, we were advised to be strict in conforming to the double shift policy of the President but still following the Roxas Law of 1:45,’’ according to Talino, adding that the official declaration for classroom shortages at present is more or less 12,000.

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