P3.9 billion schoolbuildings, classrooms completed in Cordillera

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BAGUIO CITY  – Education and public works officials disclosed some P3.9 billion worth of schoolbuildings and classrooms in the different parts of the Cordillera have been completed through the convergence program of the agencies to help reduce the increased backlog of classrooms for upcoming learners regionwide.

Based on the data obtained from the Cordillera office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH-CAR), 137 schoolbuildings and classroom projects worth P1.94 billion were programmed by both the education and public works departments in 2017 with only 31 projects completed while 17 projects are expected to be completed by this year.

For 2018, both agencies programmed the put up of some 127 schoolbuildings and classrooms with an overall project cost of P1.8 billion where only 54 projects were completed, 71 projects are still ongoing, and only 2 projects not yet started due to various problems.

Ironically, the funds earmarked by the education department for its ongoing schoolbuilding projects under the 2019 national budget drastically dropped to P2 billion from the proposed P80 billion appropriation primarily because the impending shift from the previous obligation-based budgeting to purely cash-based budgeting.

For the Cordillera, the previous provision of funds from the public works department for the put up of some 800 classrooms in the different schools around the region for this year was significantly reduced to only 32 classrooms following the reduction in the agency’s budget earmarked for schoolbuildings and classrooms.

Earlier, the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera chaired by Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan requested the education and public works central offices to devise a separate scheme in the computation of project estimates for proposed schoolbuildings and classrooms in the region because of the mountainous terrain, thus, the put up of structures involve hauling of aggregates from the nearest road to the project sites, provision of slope protection walls, drainage systems, among other important components, that will guarantee the safety of the structures.

The DPWH is currently awaiting the list of the classrooms funded by the meagre appropriations provided for the schoolbuilding and classroom projects of the agency under this year’s annual budget so that the same will be subjected to the required public bidding prior to their being implemented.

Education officials cannot forecast as to when the agency can reduce the gap between the number of classrooms in the different schools and the increasing population of schoolchildren and students wanting to avail of the government’s free basic education program because of the limitations on the budget annually earmarked for the purpose, aggravated by the need to repair and rehabilitate existing schoolbuildings and classrooms.

Requests for funding for the construction of schoolbuildings and classrooms are done through proposal basis and depending on the amount that will be provided by the budget department for such identified priority project of the agency, thus, the inability of concerned government agencies to make long-term projections on when to address the lack of classrooms in the countryside. By HENT