MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released P9.41 billion ($201.06 million)* to the Department of Public Works and Highways for the construction of 6,098 new classrooms in 956 high schools in the country.
The fund release was charged against the Department of Education's (DepEd) Basic Educational Facilities Fund (BEFF) for 2015, which now has a balance of P61.5 million ($1.31 million).
The balance will be released pending the submission of documentary requirements.
"There have been delays in the construction of these classrooms, due to the education agency's exhaustive process in assessing their targets," Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in a statement on Wednesday, September 23.
He added, "However, the DepEd had to identify and validate the safety of these sites first as part of the national government's Build Back Better strategy."
The highest allocation from the P9.41-billion release will go to Calabarzon (P2.17 billion or $46.38 million), followed by the National Capital Region (P1.29 billion or $27.57 million) and Western Visayas (P1.2 billion or $25.65 million).
This is the breakdown per region:
Releases to the regions will include buffer funds worth a total of P82.6 million ($1.77-million) meant to support "additional foundation works if needed."
"With 99.87% of the BEFF already released, the national government can now focus on achieving our construction targets for the year. More important, the building of these school facilities will help us improve the quality of education to better prepare our graduates for work or higher education," Abad said.
The DBM release comes exactly a week after Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto called on the DepEd to identify in the national budget the schools where new classrooms will be built.
For him, "unbundling" the classroom budget fund will solve one of the many causes of the delay in building new classrooms in the country. It was earlier reported that, to date, billions from 2014 and 2015 funds meant for classroom construction remain unspent.
The senator slammed the department for what he called "zero-based knowledge" budgeting, or when one requests for funds first before identifying the need. (READ: Recto wants itemized projects in DepEd's classroom budget)
Under the proposed 2016 budget of DepEd, a total of P80.59 billion ($1.72 billion) has been allocated for Basic Educational Facilities.
Of this amount, P73.18 billion ($1.56 billion) will go to the construction, replacement, and completion of kindergarten, elementary, and high school buildings and technical-vocational laboratories, as well as the construction of water and sanitation facilities.
The department is set to get the largest allocation in the 2016 budget – a total of P435.9 billion ($9.31 billion) or 15.4% more than the 2015 budget of P377.7 billion ($8.07 billion). – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P46.80
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.