By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
While it supports the new budgeting system for 2019 national budget, the Department of Education (DepEd) cautioned on the possible impact of the reduction of budget on basic education resources – particularly on classrooms – in the coming years.
DepEd Undersecretary for Administrative Service Alain Del Pascua, in an interview, admitted there might be a “domino effect” if the budget of DepEd will have continued reduction of budget in the coming years.
“Overall, in the reduction, we can expect more backlog in education resources in the coming years,” said Pascua in a mix of English and Filipino. “If you reduce the budget now, naturally, you will have a reduction of classrooms,” he added.
For 2019, DepEd has proposed P116-billion budget for construction of 46,415 classrooms. However, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only recommended P10.2 billion which will only cover the construction of 4,089 classrooms.
“Yung P116B that proposed budget ay sagot sa shortage for 2019, so kapag hindi mo i-address yan ng buong-buo, syempre, magkakaroon ka talaga ng shortage ng classrooms kasi hindi mo talaga mako-construct (The P116B that was proposed covers the 2019 shortage so if you do not address that in full, we will have shortage of classrooms because these will not be constructed),” Pascua said.
Originally, DepEd proposed P732.280-billion budget for 2019. However, as per DBM recommendation, the National Expenditure Program (NEP) level for DepEd now amounts to P527.714 billion. According to Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla, this year’s 2019 NEP-level for DepEd is 8.92 percent lower than the 2018 DepEd GAA of P579.419 billion.
Sevilla noted that the lower DepEd budget for 2019 is “consistent with the lower total proposed National Budget of P3.757 trillion” – which is 0.27 percent or P10 billion lower compared to the 2018 GAA of P3.767 trillion.
The seeming reduction in the 2019 DepEd budget, Sevilla said, is expected since the FY 2019 budget is under the Annual Cash-Based Appropriations (ACBA) wherein the “obligations that will be incurred for the year and the associated disbursements that will be made will be limited to the goods delivered and services rendered, accepted and paid within the fiscal year.”
Shortage always a possibility
Even the continued increase in enrollment as well as the backlog in the previous years that are not yet completed, Pascua said the shortage in classrooms – as well as other facilities – is “always a possibility” in public schools especially with the reduction in budget.
In two years, Pascua said the possible shortage may not yet be visible but if the budget is reduced continuously, there might be a need to brace for shortage. “We still have that one year na parang breathing space pero umabot yan ng 2020, that we will be seeing a big problem,” he said.
Pascua noted that the shortage of classrooms as of December 2018 was taken care of the ongoing construction of 80,000 classrooms. “Kapag naipasok mo yan this year, yung 2019 mo na supposedly kulang ka pa ng around 40,000 classrooms, kaya mo pang-i-remedy yan because of the existing facilities that you have but you can no longer remedy that the next year or 2020 – yun ang kailangan i-address,” he added.
Beginning 2020, Pascua said DepEd is already proposing a multistorey medium-rise, buildings in Metro Manila. “We have started with the design and it is up for implementation in 2020 which means that our concept and proposal is already in that direction,” he said.
If there is a delay in the construction of classrooms for one year, Pascua – who is also an engineer – believes there should be a projection in the next 3, 5 or 10 years so DepEd will know what to do within next year.
To date, Pascua said the computation of DepEd on classroom needs is based on ideal parameters. While there are considered shortage of classrooms “under ideal situations,” DepEd is implementing “creative means” to solve this problem. “We can still find remedy [for classroom shortage] in the next one or two years but longer that than will not do,” he said.
New system gives ‘breather’
Despite the possible shortage of classrooms due to the budget reduction, Pascua noted that the new system will give the DepEd enough time to complete its ongoing construction.
“On the other hand, it will also give us a breather to finish everything,” Pascua said. “So yung magiging shortage mo next year, ipapasok mo ngayon yan sa 2019 and by that time, ready na and by that time, na-experience mo na yung one year the cash-based budgeting (The shortage next year, you can include that in 2019 and it will be ready by that time, you have also have one year experience with cash-based budgeting by that time),” he added.
Pascua said the reason why DBM is giving DepEd – as well as other agencies – a breather is to pave the way for one-year cash-based budgeting. “Dati kasi halos two years yan eh, kahit one year lang yung budget mo pero obligation-based ka, ibig sabihin kahit obligated ka ng December, pwede mo pang i-implement the following year pero under the cash-based, hindi na pwede (Before, even if your budget is only for one year, since you are under obligation-based even until December, you can still implement it the following year but with the cash-based, this is no longer allowed),” he said.
The logic behind this new budgeting system, Pascua believes, is for government departments and agencies to complete their ongoing projects before the year ends. “Parang ang sabi nila, napakarami nyo pang kinakain, dadagdagan na naman ng pagkain, baka hindi nyo na maubos by December of 2019 so that’s the logic (It’s like them saying that ‘you still have so much food, if we add more, you may not be able to finish it by December 2019),” he ended.