By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) pushes for legislation that would effectively help address bottleneck on the provision of textbooks in public schools nationwide.
As it implements initiatives to a more proactive system of delivering textbooks, Education Secretary Leonor Briones underscored the need for the aid of legislation to also avoid logistical constraints in the delivery of textbooks – particularly “buffer stock” which was cited by the Commission on Audit (CoA) as “unutilized” textbooks.
In its 2018 report, the CoA cited that DepEd has an “alarming number of undistributed instructional materials amounting to P113,708,595.00 as buffer stock from CYs 2014 up to 2017.” State auditors also noted that 3.4 million copies of textbooks – intended for public schools across the country – remain idle in warehouses located in Taguig. However, Briones clarified that “buffer stocks” refer to the efforts of the department in case of calamities and increased enrollment.
Briones noted that from 2016 to 2018, the DepEd has already delivered 81,892,080 textbooks of various titles nationwide and stressed that the 3.4 million buffer stock cited by COA constitutes just 4.2 percent of the total deliveries.
Combination of Laws as Culprit
Meanwhile, Briones shared the legal note on the issue submitted by DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan and Atty. Ma. Golda Gigi Miñoza. It stated that the combination of laws – particularly of Republic Act 8047 (Book Publishing Industry Development Act) and Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) – as well as the implementing issuances, and agency practice “resulted to lengthened processes that caused major delays in the manuscript development, printing, and delivery of textbooks.”
As a response to these stringencies, DepEd is considering to push for legislation to: “re-establish an Instructional Materials Council, to provide high-level, policy guidance to the concerned bureau on textbook standards.”
DepEd is also looking into the recovery of its the authority – concurrent with the private sector – to “develop manuscripts of textbooks and other learning resources” as well as to “specify various procurement approaches or modalities for textbooks and learning resources, including through procurement of consulting services, the current procedure under Resolution No. 01-2010, or Volume 5: Manual of Procedures for the Procurement of Manuscripts for Textbooks and Teacher’s Manuals, or the procurement of books as goods.”
The agency is also looking into the possibility of including an additional modality wherein DepEd is “authorized to pre-select titles based on transparent standards and procedures, and procure these competitively or through alternative modes, as applicable.”
Briones said that these proposals will be discussed at the DepEd executive committee (ExeCom) level – with inputs of other ExeCom members and their strand directors duly considered.
Meanwhile, Briones also shared that in a communication sent by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda – requesting to be furnished with the responses and clarifications of the DepEd on the audit observation— he “offered his support should legislation be part of the reform.” DepEd, she noted, has also “agreed to develop with him a bill that would address the textbooks bottleneck.”