Senator Francis Escudero, the chairman of the Senate finance committee, on Friday noted that not a single classroom has been built by the government out of the 41,728 planned for this year.
He then moved to require Malacanang to itemize its huge lump-sum appropriation for the government school building project in the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016, not only for transparency purposes but also to speed up construction.
According to Escudero, Congress has allotted P45.7 billion in the national budget for new classrooms and 455 technical-vocational workshops.
In addition, he said, P2.93 billion has been allocated for the repair of 9,500 classrooms.
But despite the huge amounts involved, Escudero again noted, these allocations are not accompanied by specific details, which could be the reason why the construction of classrooms is facing delays.
“Slow implementation could have been averted if we enumerated in the budget preparation phase how many classrooms will be built at what cost and in what schools,” he said.
Escudero also learned about a huge backlog in the construction of classrooms last year where of the 43,183 classrooms slated to be built in 2014, only 7,051 had been completed as of May 31, 2015.
“I am telling Education and Budget officials to please break down the school building fund. I am assigning this homework early, so they won’t be caught by surprise,” he said.
Escudero expressed confidence that itemizing the school building fund “will not only promote transparency but will also accelerate construction so that by the time schools open, classrooms have already been completed using the current year’s appropriations.”
The senator said he wants the itemization of the classroom funds, citing an announcement of Malacanang that the Department of Education (DepEd) will get the biggest share in the 2016 budget and the largest funding increase.
The DepEd’s budget will go up from P321.1 billion this year to P436.5 billion, or by P115.4 billion.