Two senators on Friday bewailed the delay in the repair and reconstruction of school buildings damaged or destroyed by last year’s Super Typhoon Yolanda and the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in the Visayas reportedly owing to the unavailability of funds.
Senators Pia Cayetano and Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr. said the funds promised by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for the upkeep of state universities and colleges (SUCs) have not yet been released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Marcos was quoting reports from school administrators in Eastern Visayas.
Cayetano said that while she understands that plans and budget proposals for rehabilitation have to be reviewed first before the fund is released, the government should also make sure that the funds is released soon so that necessary rehabilitations works could commence.
And “only a few weeks remain before the opening of classes in June,” Cayetano, who chairs the Senate committee on education, arts and culture, said.
She noted that Congress has allocated more than P100 billion for the rehabilitation of disaster-hit areas in the 2014 national budget aside from a P14.6-billion supplemental budget.
However according the DBM only P32.2 billion have actually been released.
“The fund allotted for the reconstruction of SUCs is P1 billion, which is not even one percent of the total rehabilitation budget. But what’s holding up its release, considering that the school year is just about to start?” the senator asked.
Marcos reiterated that the national government should download the rehabilitation funds for Yolanda-hit areas to the local government units, adding that rehabilitation and con–struction efforts were still being led by foreign relief agencies, private firms and non-go–vernment organizations.
Also, he lauded the Air Asia Zest Air for donating $1 million under the Habitat Organization in aiding the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase in Yolanda-hit areas.
Still, the senator was optimistic that the P32-billion post-Yolanda fund that was released by the DBM on May 15 will be felt in the most Yolanda-affected areas.
The CHED has submitted a list of damaged schools in the typhoon-hit areas in the Visayas and its repair cost estimate as early as March this year.
But the DBM has yet to release the funds for the rehabilitation of 26 state colleges SUCs in Regions 4B, 6, 7 and 8.
According to Cayetano seven more SUCs were still waiting for the second round of validation by Department of Public Works and Highways, while another 18 SUCs have yet to undergo assessment by the agency.