P3B slashed from DepEd’s school buildings fund in 2018

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education(DepEd) is asking for a budget for school buildings P3 billion lower that what was appropriated this year.

At present, DepEd has P109.31billion to spend for its Basic Education Facilities Fund (BEFF). For 2018, DepEd's proposed budget for school buildings is down to 106.08 billion.

Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said DepEd proposed a higher appropriation for the BEFF, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) made budget cuts when it finalized the 2018 National Expenditure Program it submitted to Congress.

Syempre [dahil ito doon sa] available amount ng DBM. May Build, Build, Build, 'di ba? Most likely, napunta sa Build, Build, Build,” said Sevilla, referring to the Duterte administration’s ambitious infrastructure program. 

(Of course, it was based on how much DBM could spare. There’s a ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, right? Most likely the money went there.) 

Sevilla made the explanation on the sidelines of the DepEd's budget hearing before the House of Representatives appropriations committee on Tuesday, August 12. DepEd is proposing a 2018 budget worth P612.117 billion.

The decrease in DepEd's 2018 BEFF was mainly caused by the lowering of the proposed budget for the construction of school labs and workshops from P43.9 billion in 2017 to P34.6 billion in 2018.

But there were increases in other items under the BEFF as well. The proposed budget for the construction and replacement of classrooms was raised from P64.3 billion to P70.5 billion, while money for the purchase of school desks was raised from P2.5 billion in 2017 to P3.5 billion in 2018. The funds for providing electricity to schools was also raised from P300 million to P2.9 billion in 2018.

All these budgetary changes resulted to the P3-billion budget cut for the DepEd’s school buildings fund. 

ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said in a statement that he opposed the budget cut. 

“Teachers and students in the field will profoundly feel the loss of this P3.245 billion worth of schools and classrooms. It will mean more congested rooms, more students pushed to hold classes in makeshift spaces even under trees,” said Castro.

Sevilla, however, is not concerned over the fund decrease. She said the DepEd prefers to handle a lesser amount of new construction projects since there is still a good number of pending projects from 2014 to 2016. 

Right now, ayaw namin sana na maging mas marami para matapos namin ‘yung mga outgoing. There’s a lot of ongoing projects. Mas maganda kung maayos namin itong lahat…. ‘Yung mga nakatenga na construction, ‘yun ‘yung inuuna namin ngayon,” said Sevilla. 

(Right now, we're hoping that there won't be too much new projects so we can finish the outgoing ones. There's a lot of ongoing projects. It's good if we finish everything... The pending construction projects are on top of our list.)

Backlog in new classrooms

For 2017 alone, around P95.798 billion allotted for the construction of new classrooms remained untouched.

Construction of new classrooms and replacing old buildings is under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), while DepEd is in charge of repairs, buying furniture, and providing electricity to schools.

Undersecretary Alain Pascua previously said the delay in the building of new classrooms was caused by the intensive pre-construction assessment that the DepEd and DPWH conducted on the areas where the new classrooms are set to be built.

From January to April, they determine whether or not the areas have buildable spaces– how many classrooms are needed per building, and what type of soil the foundation will be built upon. 

The DepEd also proposed several designs to make the school buildings more resistant to natural disasters and other effects of climate change.

DPWH, however, already committed to allocate the unused funds by November. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.