Press Release
October 11, 2015

To fight dengue, P77-B worth of classrooms built next year must be screened

Sen. Ralph Recto today said he would introduce an amendment in the provisions governing the use of schoolbuilding funds in the 2016 national budget which would require the installation of window and door screens in public school classrooms to shield students from dengue mosquitoes.

The government, he said, is planning to spend P77.2 billion next year to build or repair classrooms and technical-vocational (tech-voc) laboratories.

Of this amount, P61.8 billion will be for the construction of 43,000 classrooms; P4 billion will be for the repair of 20,000 classrooms; and almost P11.4 billion will be for 4,563 new tech-voc labs, Recto said.

"In the case of the repair of 20,000 classrooms, there might be no cost adjustment needed because the installation of screens could be part of the renovation work," Recto said.

As to the 43,000 classrooms to be built, we will have to ask the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) if the price tag of each allows it to absorb the cost of the screens, or what pre-building expenses, like soil tests, can be reduced to accommodate the change order," he said.

"Or we can just provide the screen from additional sources post-construction and let it be installed by school stakeholders, bayanihan style," Recto said.

"Ang importante ay maikabit. In budgeting, as in health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he said.

The idea is to make the screen a regular feature of the design, Recto said. "This is needed for two reasons: First is that dengue outbreaks are no longer seasonal, but year-round. Second, almost one in four Filipinos congregate in public schools daily."

Public school enrolment is estimated to be at least 23.72 million, taught and assisted by DepEd's 628,000 teachers and non-teaching personnel, in 46,407 elementary and high schools.

"Mas maraming nasa schools kesa sa malls araw-araw. At oras ang itinatagal nila doon. Kaya ayaw nating maging hangout ang mga paaralan ng mga bad mosquitoes," Recto said.

Dengue, which is spread through the bite of an Aedes mosquito, often affects school-aged children. The number of cases reported to the DoH from January to September 19 had reached almost 93,000. "Karamihan ng biktima ay may school ID," the senator said.

Recto said screening off ventilation points in classrooms is not a new idea. "In fact, it is an ongoing project by the DoH."

According to reports, 7,620 schools have already been provided with screens laced with safe levels of insecticide.

Health Secretary Janette Garin said chemically-treated screens will not only kill mosquitoes, but cockroaches and other insects, too.

The Department of Health (DoH) is planning to install screens in 20,000 classrooms this year, with priority given to ground-level classrooms.

By making screens a mandatory feature of new classrooms, "then we will be involving one more agency in the anti-dengue fight, the DPWH, so this becomes a tripartite campaign," he said.

"Hindi lang kailangan ang screen sa dengue-prone areas, but also in places where malaria is endemic. May kulambo nga ang bata sa gabi, pero kung expose naman sya sa lamok sa araw, wala ding epekto," Recto said.

Though the government is winning the fight against malaria, 26 provinces remain scourged by the Plasmodium parasite transmitted through the bite of an Anopheles mosquito.

Malaria downed 7,720 in 2013, one-sixth the 46,342 cases reported in 2005.

"Kaya kailangan ang 'mandatory screening' sa mga schools," he said.

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