DepEd to turn to gov’t calamity funds to repair flood-hit public schoolsBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines— With less than P300 million left in its contingency funds, the Department of Education (DepEd) may tap the national government’s calamity funds to make emergency repairs on hundreds of flood-affected public schools.
DepEd’s field engineers are currently assessing the damage wrought on public elementary and high schools in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces by the southwest monsoon, according to a DepEd official.
Annabelle Pangan, officer-in-charge of DepEd’s physical facilities and schools engineering division, said they have already spent more than half of the DepEd’s P550 million quick response fund (QRF) in 2012.
“To date, only P255 million remains in the QRF since we have used the rest for schools damaged by the earthquake in Negros and Cebu,” explained Pangan, referring to the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Western and Central Visayas last February.
She said they would come up with the damage report on the recent massive flooding within the week.
Out of the DepEd’s P238.8-billion budget in 2012, P550 million was allocated for its QRF to finance emergency repairs on schools damaged by disasters such as floods, typhoons, earthquakes and fire.
“These are for schools which need immediate repairs to restore them to normalcy,” Pangan said.
“If the remaining QRF will not be sufficient, we’re working with the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) to tap a portion of the calamity funds of the national government,” she continued.
According to the DepEd engineering office, 7,230 public schools nationwide have been damaged by either flooding, landslides or volcanic eruptions in the last three years.
They make up 15 per cent of the nearly 46,000 public schools in the country.
Engr. Luis Purisima Jr., assistant chief of the DepEd’s physical facilities and schools engineering division, said their database showed that 6,619 schools were flooded at one time or another in the last three years.
The 6,619 schools included 5,544 elementary public schools and 1,075 public high schools.
Another 529 public schools—411 elementary schools and 118 high schools—were damaged by landslides.
Another 82 public schools—68 elementary schools and 14 high schools — had damage due to volcanic eruption.
Purisima said the schools were not automatically closed, including those damaged by landslides. “They will be assessed whether they will be declared unsafe,” he said.
Knowing which schools are prone to hazards helps engineers in the rehabilitation, according to Purisima.
“Since we know which schools are prone to floods, we can elevate the structure when we construct next time and repair the drainage,” he said.
Purisima disclosed that in 2011, 80 per cent of the 1,334 public schools randomly inspected by DepEd and the Department of Public Works and Highways had classrooms and school buildings with “structural defects.”
Of the 2,292 school buildings inspected, 60 per cent or 1,412 were found to have structural defects.
Purisima said one third or 149,527 of the total 462,320 classrooms in all public schools in the country have been in need of “major repairs.”
Another 20 per cent or 95,044 classrooms require “minor repairs.”
Purisima said the structural defects were due to the school building’s age and not by earthquakes through the years.
He pointed out that these school buildings and classrooms have remained in use since repairs have been made or have been going on.
“The DepEd will not allow a structure to be used if it’s not safe,” he said.