MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto proposed on Saturday that a good portion of P26-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) be realigned and spent on education—for more teachers, classrooms, science labs and even meals for malnourished children in public schools.
“If plans to scrap the P26-bllion PDAF in the proposed 2014 national budget will push through, then a big portion of that amount must go to education,” Recto said in a statement. He even provided a new name for the pork barrel fund—Basic Education Enhancement Fund or BEEF.
“But seriously, the idea is for education to hog, pardon the pun, whatever will become of PDAF, should Congress decide to take it out of the budget,” Recto said. “The work now is how to pound pork barrel into schools, computers, laboratory equipment and even kitchens that will serve meals to malnourished pupils.”
Recto’s suggestion came almost a week after the Senate committee on finance approved a P336.9-billion budget allocation for the Department of Education in 2014.
It also came on the heels of a Senate resolution filed by Senator Juan Edgardo Angara calling on the Senate to allocate half of its P4.8-billion share of the PDAF to fund education-sector reforms.
In his statement, Recto described education spending as the one that “gives the best social ROI (return-on-investment).”
“All development blueprints are one in saying that investing in education is the best building block for progress,” Recto said.
Recto said that while next year’s proposed DepEd’s budget of nearly P340 billion will finance a never-before-seen classroom-building- and teacher-hiring-spree, “backlog in other areas will remain and new needs will be created.”
“And this can be erased by a rechanneled PDAF. So that when taxpayers ask Congress, ‘Where’s the pork?’ it can reply, ‘Here’s the BEEF’,” Recto said.
Recto noted that DepEd itself has acknowledged that half of the 38,503 public elementary schools lack computers and less than half had science laboratories.
In addition, there was also a great need to provide more in-school meals to poor malnourished students.
“DepEd says almost 4 percent of Grade 1 to 4 students are ‘severely wasted’ and almost 11 percent are ‘wasted’,” Recto said, noting that a P1-billion allocation for a feeding program in the department’s 2014 budget will benefit only halkf a million students and not even on a daily basis.
Recto said another funding gap that needs to be filled concerns libraries and textbooks.
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