Manila Bulletin – Senate urged to probe slow repair of damaged schools

By Mario Casayuran | Manila Bulletin

ManilaBulletinOnlineThe senate leadership was asked yesterday to investigate, in aid of legislation, the very slow pace of the multi-billion-peso reconstruction program for destroyed or damaged school buildings hit by super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ almost six months ago.

Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. filed a resolution directing the Senate public works committee to investigate the status of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of classrooms, buildings and other educational facilities damaged by the super typhoon. The resolution also asked to check on the status of the funds appropriated to restore normalcy and ensure the welfare of the students.

Marcos cited a report of the Department of Education (DepEd) that out of 2,172 destroyed classrooms in the affected areas, only 764 have been constructed so far. Only 5,007 classrooms out of 9,420 partially damaged classrooms have been repaired, the report said.

“This miserable scenario will affect almost 200,000 elementary and high school students who will be forced to hold classes in 1,828 makeshift and pre-fabricated classrooms, and 2,555 tents this coming school year,’’ the Marcos resolution stated.

The typhoon, considered the strongest so far to hit the country, roared through the Visayan region and nearby provinces November 8, 2013. It claimed more than 6,000 lives and more than 200,000 families were displaced, with more than 500,000 houses wiped out.

In a related development, the Senate public works committee chaired by Marcos released this week its report on the bunkhouses built for the thousands of ‘Yolanda’ victims, citing that those were not overpriced but were built below public works standards.

The “extremely bureaucratic processes’’ of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have hindered family-beneficiaries to immediately occupy these bunkhouses despite the emergency situation that they were confronted with, it added.

Marcos pointed out that Congress earmarked over P100 billion under the current 2014 national budget and subsequently approved a supplemental budget of P14.6 billion allocated for the rehabilitation of disaster-hit areas.

Marcos also said that P1 billion out of the total rehabilitation fund had been earmarked for the repair of public elementary and high schools, with another P1 billion for rehabilitation of damaged facilities of state colleges and universities.

He then cited an announcement by Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that the government has already released P32.2 billion for the rehabilitation efforts in disaster-stricken areas.

Former Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, now the rehabilitation czar of the Aquino administration, however, clarified that the P32.2 billion released by DBM was not for reconstruction, but primarily for relief operations.

Marcos said there is an urgent need to direct the DBM, DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to explain whether or not the funds released includes the reconstruction costs of the school buildings.

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