Press Release
June 14, 2015

"How many of 44,663 new classrooms were built in time for class opening?"

If China can build rapidly airstrips in lands previously underwater, then why are we having a hard time building 60-square-meter classrooms on dry land?

Sen. Ralph Recto raised this query in calling for an inventory of classrooms built this year, "if how many of the 44,663 classrooms authorized to be built or repaired this year were completed in time for school opening last June 1."

Under the Department of Education's P319 billion budget for 2015, some P53.9 billion is earmarked for classrooms, chairs and other "basic educational facilities."

Included in this outlay is P44.7 billion for 44,663 new classrooms, P2.88 billion for the repair of 9,595 classrooms, P1.38 billion for 455 technical-vocational schools, and P1.37 billion for 13,641 "toilets and water and sanitation packages".

Congress also appropriated P1.206 billion for 1.3 million chairs, desks and other furniture.

The assumption is that most of the classrooms will be ready for occupancy by the start of the school year, Recto said.

"I don't think it should take half-a-year to construct a toilet or put up a building slightly bigger than a waiting shed," Recto said.

He said these school facilities should have been built by now because Congress' on-time passage of the 2015 national budget last December should have allowed government "to hit the ground running on the very first day of the year."

"And we can't blame weather for the delay because summer offered the ideal conditions to have them built," Recto said.

Recto said he is asking government "to submit a report card so we can have a mid-year insight on what's holding up the construction and so we can find ways on how to speed it up during the second semester."

"Overall, this can help us in finding the cure to that bureaucratic ailment called underspending," Recto said.

Recto said one reason for the delay could be the sheer volume of classrooms to be built. "It is comparable to building almost 50,000 low-cost houses, not just in one village, but from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi."

According to Recto, the availability of funds may not be the problem "if we go by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) pronouncements."

The DBM said that 78 percent, or P2.037 trillion of the P2.606 trillion 2015 budget had been released by January 27, and 92.5 percent had been downloaded by April.

"I am not also saying that it is the fault of the central office of the DPWH because under Secretary Rogelio Singson, the agency has been bidding out, building and completing projects ahead of schedule, above standards and below the cost," Recto said.

"And in fairness to (DepED Secretary) Brother Armin ( Luistro), the building of classrooms is not the sole responsibility of his office," Recto said.

Recto said the problem could be at the ground level where there is a "disconnect between national instructions and local implementation."

He said Congress' "periodic grading" of government's school-building program is required by Republic Act 10651, or the General Appropriations Act of 2015.

A special provision in the DepEd budget calls for the submission of quarterly reports on classrooms, buildings and laboratories built or repaired, Recto explained.

"I think we should find where the spending or implementing bottlenecks are because what's the use of having big amounts under a budget that is passed early if the projects it funds are implemented slowly," he said.

For 2014, it was reported that actual infrastructure and other capital outlay spending fell short by P89 billion or 24.4 percent of program.

Overall, total government expenditures that year reached P1.982 trillion, or 13.3-percent below the P2.284 trillion program.

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