By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The backlog for the repair, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by calamities this year and of the previous years has reached the P10-billion mark, the Department of Education (DepEd) said.
DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Service and Education Programs Delivery Unit Annalyn Sevilla said that there was a P7-billion Quick Response Fund (QRF) backlog to address needs of the schools that were damaged by calamities since 2017.
“During the last two years, we already have a backlog of P7bilion due for repair and replacement of schools damaged by disasters and calamities,” Sevilla said. “If minor repair [of schools] is needed, we find ways to fill this up through the regular budget but replacement [of totally damaged schools] is really a major problem,” she explained.
Following the recent earthquakes in Mindanao which – DepEd estimates – would need another P3-billion, she noted that the “backlog will continue to pile up” if the P2-billion annual QRF will not be augmented.
“Every time there’s calamity or disaster, the budget needed increases because this is not included in the regular budget,” Sevilla said. “So if there’s only P2 billion approved for QRF this 2020, it means that this is not enough to make up for the calamities in the previous years that are not yet addressed,” she added.
The QRF is used by DepEd to cover repair and replacement of classrooms caused by calamities or disasters. However, Sevilla explained that this is not included in the proposed regular budget of the agency.
“Some might ask, what seems to be the problem if there’s available budget every year?” Sevilla said. “The answer to this is when we submit requirements for the regular budget, this does not include funding for disasters or calamity,” she added.
Next week, Sevilla said that DepEd has a have scheduled plenary hearing for the budget.
“We’re preparing for that and I hope the Senate and the bi-cam committee will also look into our QRF that as of now, there’s already close to P10 billion backlog,” she said.
Sevilla said that DepEd has already informed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) of this backlog. “The DBM is already aware of this and we have already submitted our request and we look forward that there are still some funds that are available the we can use for QRF,” she explained.
DepEd, Sevilla said, is pushing for the 2019 budget to be extended. “If the budget of 2019 could be extended, it would be very helpful for us – not just for the DepEd but for the entire government especially those that have very big programs that depend on procurement,” she said.
As much as DepEd wanted to address the damages in calamity-stricken schools, Sevila said that the agency’s hands are tied. “Gusto man naman gamitin ito, ang problema namin is that it is beyond our control already – that is because of the procurement,” she added.
Quake-affected schools in Mindanao
The latest available data from the DepEd’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Service (DRRMS) following the 6.6 and 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Tulunan, North Cotabato showed there are 1,063 schools with reported damages directly affecting 664,882 learners. There are also 1,094 totally damaged classrooms; 1,319 classrooms with major damage and 4, 434 classrooms with minor damage.
The estimated cost of needs for these infrastructure damages, DepEd said, is P3.3B or P2.7billion for reconstruction and P659 million for rehabilitation and major repairs.
Results of the non-infrastructure damages also showed that there are 109 schools that reported that damages which include 1, 055 damaged school furniture, 1,802 damaged learning materials, and 960 damaged computer sets.
DepEd noted that it has already provided 757 Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) to 189 schools in seven divisions under Regions XI and XII.
DepEd data showed that a total of 3, 326, 822 learners are affected by the suspension of classes at all levels in 6,980 schools under 28 divisions in BARMM, Regions X, XI, and XII. The DepEd Central Office and DepEd RO XII and XI continue to monitor further developments in the quake-affected areas.