Aquino should build 200,000 classrooms via PPP, Lapus says

by Coco Alcuaz, ANC

Posted at Jul 07 2011 12:37 AM | Updated as of Jul 07 2011 08:37 AM

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III should build 200,000 classrooms in 2 years via public-private partnership to close a backlog, the Management Association of the Philippines says, as much as 10 times more than the government proposes.

There's a backlog of more than 120,000 classrooms, according to former Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, chairman of the group's education task force.
 That's because the government builds around 10,000 classrooms a year when it needs 20,000 or 30,000. The group has a plan which it says can get as many as 200,000 built in 2 years.

Classroom Crisis

Yearly construction      10,000
Yearly requirement      20,000-30,000
Backlog                            120,000

(Source: Management Association of the Philippines)

One part of the plan is to use all or part of the government's budget for building classrooms to rent classrooms instead. Lapus said the private sector will build the classrooms if the government guarantees a rate of return.

"It's a matter of tapping existing public and private funds," Lapus said in an ABS-CBN News Channel interview. "The general appropriations act could provide for flexibility by allowing the Department of Education to rent-to-own, which means it's the private sector investing. The private sector will construct the classrooms on government land and then the DepEd will lease it. You can have 5 times more classrooms for the same amount of money."

Aquino needs to improve education to boost and sustain economic growth. The fast-growing business process outsourcing industry says it's getting tougher to find recruits who pass its standards for speaking English and other skills.

He plans to lengthen school to the 13-year K+12 world standard. This may stretch resources further. The lack of classrooms, teachers and equipment and supplies forces many public schools to cram classes with students and operate in shifts.

Lapus said a 10% return will be enough to attract investors, some of whom have almost P2 trillion parked with the central bank.

"There is so much liquidity in the system now," Lapus said. "P1.9 trillion is sitting in SDAs (special deposit accounts) with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas waiting to be invested with a higher return on investment and provided there's a guarantee on repayment the private sector is eager to do its share."

"The SDA is paying 4.5 percent now. I think 10 percent or more, together with the feeling that they're contributing to human resources. After all it's the private sector that's clamoring for better education."

Lapus said MAP is also suggesting the government require legislators to spend a third of their pork barrel on classrooms and make local government's use their special education fund more effectively. He said MAP hopes the president adopts their plan, and includes something similar in his state of the nation address later this month.

The government plans to build 10,000 classrooms via PPP this year, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said last month. It says the backlog is 60,000.