THE Department of Education (DepEd) said Wednesday that it failed to start construction on 4,100 new classrooms and fill at least 10,000 teaching positions in the first three months of the year because of the delayed passage of the 2019 budget.
“We just have to be optimistic; it’s now passed, so let’s look at that way. But January to March, we were not able to award any contracts and we are supposed to build about 4,100 new classrooms and repair or replace a lot of classrooms as well,” Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn M. Sevilla said in briefing at the Palace.
She added: “Marami po kaming malalaking programa na mas naapektuhan noong reenacted budget (many major programs were even more affected by the reenactment of the 2018 budget), and this is the creation and filling up of 10,000 teaching positions. But DBM (the Department of Budget and Management) said they will now release the allotment (for these items) because the election ban (on public spending) has been lifted.”
Ms. Sevilla said the purchase of learning materials, school supplies and equipment, and funding for the voucher system were also affected.
Undersecretary Alain Del B. Pascua said “there are about 66,050 classrooms being constructed right now.”
By the opening of classes and by the end of June, he said there will be “about 12,752 classrooms” completed.
“This is aside from the 4,000 that we have programmed… So even though we did not have the 4,000 projects under 2019 moved before the elections or even until now, we still have about 12,000 to be completed and 66,000 ongoing,” he explained.
Ms. Sevilla said classrooms that have yet to be completed are unfinished projects from 2015 to 2018.
Mr. Pascua also said that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is expected to finish the construction of all the 66,050 classrooms this year.
“Ideally, they should have finished that by the end of this year,” he noted.
“We already told the DPWH to speed up the completion of buildings and we will be monitoring (progress on)… all the projects. We can always remind them on a monthly basis.”
As for the budget for school building projects this year, Ms. Sevilla said: “Mas mababa…ang binigay na budget sa amin ngayon sa (our budget is lower for) school buildings. Last year, we had about P109 billion, but for now we only have about P14 billion.” — Arjay L. Balinbin