By Ellson Quismorio
The country now has a running classroom shortage of over 34,000, ACT-Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro said Tuesday.
Castro, a member of the Minority Bloc, made this declaration while scrutinizing the Department of Education’s (DepEd) proposed budget of P551 billion for 2020 at the plenary floor.
“Kung isusuma po natin ito, Mr. Speaker, mayroon pa rin tayong more or less 34,000 na classroom shortage kung ia-add natin yung ia-add natin yung kasalukuyan nating kailangan (If we sum it up Mr. Speaker, we more or less have a classroom shortage of 34,000 if we add all that we currently need),” Castro said.
Interpellated by the Minority lawmaker was DepEd budget sponsor, Davao Oriental 1st District Rep. Corazon Nuñez-Malanyaon, a vice-chairman of the Committee on Appropriations.
Nuñez-Malanyaon didn’t contest Castro’s claim regarding the huge classroom shortage.
“We requested [budget] from DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for the number of classrooms [needed], except that we [were] only given this number because of the limited funds,” the sponsor said.
By “this number,” Nunez-Malanyaon was referring to the 48,000 out of the 64,000 requested new classrooms that they were given budget for under the P4.1-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2020.
Some P55.9 billion has been earmarked for the “improvement of education facilities” under DepEd’s proposed budget for next year.
But Castro underscored that there’s a similar backlog for new classrooms in the current 2019 national budget, particularly when only 28,170 out of the requested 47,000 classrooms were approved for construction.
“It’s true that the original target was 47,000, [but was] reduced to 28,170,” the Davao Oriental solon said.
The classroom backlog (or difference between the requested and actual figure granted with funds) in the proposed 2020 budget stands at 16,000, while the backlog in the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) is 18,830. This makes for a total classroom shortage of 34,830.
“More than 34,000 classrooms yung kailangan natin this year para ma-fill natin yung mga shortages sa classroom na sana ay nai-provide ng ating DBM (We need over 34,000 classrooms this year in order to fill up the classroom shortage, which we wished had been provided for by the DBM),” Castro said.
The DBM is part of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the entity that prepared the National Expenditure Program (NEP). The NEP served as the basis for the GAB or the budget bill filed in the House of Representatives.
Philippine law requires the education sector to receive the largest slice of the national budget pie.