MANILA (UPDATE) - A Senate panel on Wednesday discussed proposals that seek to provide free on-site living quarters for public school teachers in far-flung areas to ease their transportation expenses.
Senators Grace Poe and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. filed separate bills mandating the government to shoulder teachers' board and lodging expenses to help them "save time and energy."
"Marami po doon [sa mga teachers] ang natutulog sa classrooms at wala po talaga silang matirahan," Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing And Resettlement chair Francis Tolentino said during a hybrid hearing.
(Many of them sleep in classrooms and have no place to live.)
"Subsidizing their housing will not only alleviate their financial difficulties, it will also attract more teachers to enter public service," he said.
Housing Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario backed proposals to construct "temporary housing facilities" for teachers, saying it could also provide security for faculty members.
"This will resolve everything else: security, transportation for teachers because the living quarters will be constructed inside the campus of Department of Education (DepEd) schools," Del Rosario said.
"Just like the construction of classrooms, the living facilities should be integrated in the budget of DepEd so that... it will not require resources from other agencies," he said.
But the National Housing Authority (NHA) said that providing a housing allowance for educators may be a better option.
"Instead of free living quarters, we are suggesting a subsidy... Para 'yung take home pay of the teachers, wala na talaga magagalaw," NHA Corporate Planning Department officer-in-charge Agnes Agay told the panel.
(Instead of free living quarters, we are suggesting a subsidy... So that the teachers can enjoy their take home pay in full.)
While the planned housing programs for teachers in rural areas are not yet in place, public school faculty can avail of housing loans designed for government employees, Del Rosario said.
As of 2018, about 39.43 percent of the 11,269 housing loans for government employees - worth around P4 billion - were awarded to teachers and other DepEd personnel, he said.
Tolentino said teachers should also be given more flexible terms in housing loans.
"Halimbawa bagong teacher ako, bumili ako ng bahay sa isang komunidad pero hindi naman ako magiging permanente doon. Dapat iyong naihulog ko, iyong amortiation ko dapat ma-carry doon naman sa paglilipatan ko na permanently na lugar," the senator said.
(For example, if I am a new teacher and I bought a house in a community where I will stay temporarily, the amortization that I paid for that house should be carried over when I relocate to my permanent property.)
Home Guaranty Corporation Executive Vice President Jimmy Sarona told the lawmaker that the proposal needs to be studied further due to existing policies of public and private housing agencies.
Tolentino's committee is expected to hold another hearing to further discuss housing assistance for teachers.
The DepEd earlier said that there are some 800,000 public school teachers in the Philippines.
Several teachers have appealed for government aid to help them buy WiFi sets, internet prepaid load, and gadgets needed for online classes and distance learning.
The education sector was forced to halt face-to-face classes this school year after President Rodrigo Duterte said students should not be allowed to come to school while a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be developed. Classes will open on August 24 using alternative modes of learning.