MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday, October 17, said it has available funds of about P300 million for schools affected by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Central Visayas last Tuesday.
Finance and Administration Undersecretary Francisco Varela said P270 million of this fund comes from the remaining Quick Response Fund of the department, while the rest are savings from the classroom project funded by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
“We have received verbal confirmation from PAGCOR that they will be happy to allow us to use those savings to address Bohol and Cebu,” Varela said.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the fund will be used for the immediate resumption of classes, including the procurement of tents and minor repairs for classrooms not heavily-affected by the earthquake. (READ: DepEd: Tents, alternative classrooms needed in Visayas)
They will also seek the approval of the Department of Budget and Management for another P400 million. Luistro said President Benigno Aquino III promised to allocate money for the rehabilitation of schools should the department need more funds.
134 schools damaged
Of more than 4,000 schools in Cebu and Bohol, only 134 schools have so far reported damage, 56 of them in Bohol, Luistro said. This does not provide the department a good overview of the situation on the ground.
The next update from the region, expected at 6 pm Thursday, should reflect a more accurate number of schools damaged.
“Siguro ngayong gabi, mas malakihan ‘yung numero ng ating mako-contact na eskwelahan. Sa bawat eskwelahan dapat mag-text man lang sa division o di kaya sa Central Office.” (We should be able to contact a bigger number of schools tonight. Every school has to contact either the divison or the Central Office.)
“Ang pinakaimportante sa amin ‘yung ma-charge yung cellphone. Dahil nawalan ng kuryente, e ‘di namin sila na-contact,” Luistro said. (The most important thing for us is for cellphones to be charged. Because electricity was cut off in the areas, we cannot contact them.)
The priority, Luistro said, is to assemble the students – building or no building – at the soonest possible time. The first day of class resumption will be for checking attendance of both students and teachers.
“That is our only way of counting and finding if there’s anyone that has been left behind and not contacted,” he said.
DepEd is also coordinating with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in forming teams that will be deployed to different schools in Cebu and Bohol.
They will check the structural integrity of the schools to assess whether new classrooms should be built, or if those still standing should be included in DPWH’s 2014 nationwide program to retrofit public buildings.
“Currently, what our engineers are doing is checking whether there are some patterns with respect to which designs are more resilient and which designs have the Achilles heel – those which, when hit, would easily fall dow,” Luistro said in a mix of English and Filipino.
He said the new standards of DPWH will be considered in rebuilding schools in the two provinces. – Rappler.com