MANILA - The budget's there but where are the classrooms?
A party-list lawmaker on Thursday chastised Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro for saying there is no more classroom shortage in the country.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. Antonio Tinio said while the DepEd was given a big budget to eliminate classroom shortage in the country, the actual construction of these classrooms remains slow.
"Kapag sinasabi ni Bro. Armin na wala nang classroom shortage, ang ibig niyang sabihin ay binigyan na sila ng budget para matugunan ang shortage," he said in a radio DZMM interview.
"Ang tanong talaga, napatupad ba 'yung budget... nakapagpatayo ba ng mga classroom in time para sa opening ng classes. Ang sagot dito, hindi," he said.
Based on documents submitted to the House committee on appropriations, Tinio said the actual classroom shortage in the country is at 67,849.
He said that out of the 43,183 classrooms targeted for completion in 2014, only 16 percent was finished.
"Noong 2014, binigyan ng Kongreso ang DepEd ng mahigit P37 billion para sa pagpapatayo ng 43,183 classrooms. Pero as of the first quarter of 2015, ang lumilitaw, 7,052 lamang ang naipatayo," he said
Tinio said underspending remains one of the biggest problems of the Aquino administration not only in the education sector but in others as well.
"Ben Diokno (former budget secretary) said that in the past four years, a total of P529 billion ang underspending ng Aquino administration," he said, citing the former Cabinet member's column published in Business World last May 12.
He added that students are suffering because of underspending.
Tinio said the root of all this underspending in DepEd is caused by lump sum budget.
"Sa kaso ng DepEd, problema dito e lump sum budgeting pa rin. 'Yung classroom construction budget na 'yan malaking lump sum 'yan P37 billion. Ibig sabihin, wala pa talaga identified... basta nagbigay lang ng malaking budget, at ipinaubaya sa DepEd na i-identify at i-construct nila. Nakita natin ang nangyari, 16% pa lang ang na-identify at naipatayo," he explained.
He added that had the government spent the fund for the other needs of the education sector, it would be more helpful.
"Imagine P267 billion ang underspending [sa DepEd] sa 2014, ang daming ibang pangangailangan ng gobyerno na maaari sanang matugunan ng pondong 'yun. Halimbawa, kung inilagay 'yun sa mas mataas na suweldo ng teachers and other government employees, na matagal nang clamor, sigurado makaka-contribute 'yun sa pagpapaganda ng ekonomiya," he said.
Tinio added that DepEd even has projects that are well-funded as these were implemented through Public-Private Partnership.
"May ilang malalaking contractors nakakuha ng malaking contracts -- tig-10,000 classrooms ang inimplement nila. Tapos maraming kapwa ko kongresista, nagko-complain sa bagal din ng implentation ng PPP school building programs," Tinio said.
"Pangalawa pa e sa quality, for example sa Pangasinan, ang complaint doon, ang design ng classrooms ay essentially modified container vans. Definitely kailangan palalalimin pa 'yung PPP school building programs ng Department of Education," he added.
The party-list lawmaker said there is some good news in the education sector.
He said the teacher-student ratio has improved over the last 3 years.
However, he said this improvement will not be felt if the classroom shortage in the country remains.
"Over the last 3 years, maraming bagong teachers... There are over 100,000 new teachers ang DepEd since 2012," he said.
"Pero kailangan sabay 'yan e... kailangan maraming teacher, pero kailangan din ng mas maraming classrooms."