Probe delay of SUC repairs – Senator

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A lawmaker has asked the Senate to investigate the delay in the reconstruction and repair of state universities and colleges (SUCs) damaged last year by Super Typhoon Yolanda and earlier calamities.

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A resolution filed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd questioned the “non-release of funds” for the reconstruction of SUC’s despite their availability and the submission of a damage estimate as early as November last year.

Pimentel noted that the affected SUCs submitted the damage estimates to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) last year in the hopes that repairs would start early and their operations would normalize so their students can resume their studies.

It has been six months since the CHED submitted the list to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and other concerned government agencies for validation, but no fund release has been made.

Pimentel said an allotment of supplemental funding of P14.6 billion in 2013 and a Rehabilitation Fund of P20 billion in 2014 have been made to help distraught communities and institutions, including SUCs, and yet reconstruction operations have yet to begin.

“No funds have been released for this purpose and there are no visible reconstruction efforts in the state colleges and universities devastated by typhoon Yolanda and the calamities prior to it,” said the solon, who asked the Senate committees on education, arts and culture and on finance to conduct an inquiry.

A total of 36 SUCs in eight regions, including the University of the Philippines in Tacloban City and in Palo, Leyte, have been affected, said Pimentel.

Most of the damaged SUCs in Regions 6, 7 and 8 opened classes last January, he said, “without undertaking the needed repairs of their structures to the detriment of the safety, health, and proper learning conditions of their students, faculty and staff.”

He said appropriate legislative measures may be undertaken to “facilitate the release of the needed funds for the rehabilitation and reconstruction works” to normalize the operations of the SUCs.

Senator Pia Cayetano earlier questioned the delay in the release of funds by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) intended for the school repairs particularly of SUCs.

Cayetano said that while she understood that plans and budget proposals for rehabilitation have to be reviewed first before funds are released, the government should also make sure that the funds are released soon so that necessary rehabilitation work could commence.

According to her, the DBM has released only P32.2 billion of the funds allotted by congress.

“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.

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