Public schools in Yolanda areas await repair

The Philippine Star

Posted at May 24 2014 03:38 AM | Updated as of May 24 2014 11:38 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Public schools in communities that Super Typhoon Yolanda had devastated are still awaiting repairs six months after the catastrophe.

A funding request for P2 billion for the repair of these schools, including state universities and colleges (SUCs), is now with the Office of the President (OP).

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) told the joint congressional oversight committee on public expenditures that the request was sent to the OP late last month.

Budget Undersecretary Luz Cantor said they forwarded the request after receiving details of the needed repair work and estimated costs from the Department of Education (DepEd) and the concerned SUCs.

Almost 200,000 elementary and high school students in Yolanda-devastated areas will be holding classes in makeshift classrooms when school on June 2.

The DepEd said classes would still be held in 1,828 makeshift and prefabricated classrooms and 2,555 tents.

The DepEd data did not indicate the areas where the temporary classrooms are located.

DepEd public information chief Patrick Salamat said rehabilitation is going on.

“We’re building back better,” he said. “This means that the new classrooms are more disaster-resilient. It’s easy to build a structure, but our goal in rehabilitation is to build something that can withstand calamities like Yolanda in the future.

“In instances where construction is still ongoing, the temporary learning spaces we’ve set up last school year will continue to be used.”

Of the 2,172 totally damaged classrooms, only 764 have been constructed so far, according to data from DepEd.

A total of 5,007 classrooms out of the 9,420 partially damaged have been repaired.

DepEd expects kindergarten enrollment this school year to reach 66,762; 691,527 for elementary and 315,324 for the secondary level.

‘Slow gov’t response’

Davao Oriental Rep. Thelma Almario, a House of Representatives appropriations committee vice chairman, said the slow government response to the rehabilitation requirements of Yolanda-devastated communities could be blamed partly on the OP.

Funding requests for such critical jobs as school repairs should be attended to immediately, she said.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, appropriations committee chairman who jointly heads the oversight committee with his Senate counterpart, Sen. Francis Escudero, cautioned Almario against blaming the OP.

“It could be that the delay was on the part of the agencies and schools requesting for the funds,” he said.

It has only been about two to three weeks since the DBM sent the request to the OP, he pointed out.

Some oversight committee members said that by the time the funds would have been released, the summer season window for repairs might have been over and classes might have already started.

Of the P2 billion, P1 billion would go to the repair of public elementary and high schools, while the remaining P1 billion would be spent for the rehabilitation of damaged facilities of SUCs.

On Thursday, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said a total of P32.2 billion has already been released as of the middle of this month to areas affected by Yolanda.

Of the amount released, P5.4 billion went to the National Electrification Administration for restoring distribution and transmission facilities, and P2.2 billion to the National Housing Association for the construction of permanent housing units, he added.

Some P2.01 billion was released to the Department of the Interior and Local Government for repair of municipal halls, public markets, civic centers and police stations, and P467 million for rescue, recovery and relief operations.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development received P1.07 billion for relief operations, while the Department of Health got P1.8 billion, including P500 million to repair the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center. – Jess Diaz, Helen Flores, Marvin Sy