Anti-Red task force may just build ‘white elephants’ – Nancy Binay
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Nancy Binay on Thursday suggested that the portion of the 2022 budget of the government’s anti-insurgency task force be allocated for building new schools in barangays be transferred to the Department of Education (DepEd) to avoid ending up with “white elephants.”
Binay said DepEd could handle the construction of the school buildings instead of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) to ensure these would have adequate equipment and teaching staff.
The NTF-Elcac funds are to be used purportedly for the development of barangays freed from communist rebel influence. One of its programs is the construction of new school buildings.
This year, the NTF-Elcac provided P20 million each to 822 barangays with P3 million allocated for school buildings.
The task force is seeking a budget of P28 billion next year, P11 billion more than its 2021 allocation, because of the increase in the number of “cleared barangays.”
At the Senate hearing on DepEd’s proposed 2022 budget, Binay asked the department whether the NTF-Elcac had coordinated with it its school building plans. She said she was concerned that these schools may not get the equipment and staff they would need.
Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua said DepEd was consulted about the list of barangays this year, and it informed the task force that 789 of the 822 barangays it identified already had schools.
“That was what we clarified to them, that if there is already a school there, they should not build one and should just build it in another barangay,” Pascua said. He said the NTF-Elcac had assumed that these barangays needed schools.
DepEd advised the task force that putting up a school does not just involve constructing the building, but also providing equipment and teaching staff, Pascua said.
Lack of teachers
He also noted that the present school buildings may not be enough for the affected communities. Binay said the new schools might not become operational due to the lack of teachers from DepEd since it was not in charge of building them.
“We don’t want these schools to be white elephants because you can’t provide teaching personnel,” she said.
Assuming that the existing school buildings in the so-called cleared barangays were inadequate, the question remained whether DepEd could provide the teaching materials and staff for the new schools that would be built, Binay said.
“If it is not in the budget for next year, the constructed school buildings will go to waste if there is no complementary budget on your end,” she told the DepEd official.
Binay said she raised the issue also because she saw a duplication by the NTF-Elcac of DepEd’s program for “Last Mile” schools, or schools located in remote areas that had inadequate facilities.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said Binay’s points about additional needs for the new schools were “well-taken.”
Briones also said there was a need to look at the status of existing schools in cleared barangays and the education materials they used needed to be scrutinized.
Binay proposed that in the 2022 budget, the money for school buildings be removed from the NTF-Ecac’s allocation and transferred to DepEd, saying that would be “more efficient” use of funds.
Briones, however, did not want to declare a position on this matter out of courtesy for another executive office.
Sen. Pia Cayetano proposed including a clause in the budget stating that the construction of new schools be subject to DepEd’s final recommendation.
“What Sen. Nancy and I want to happen is that there be no duplication and the funds not be wasted,” Cayetano said.
Critics of the NTF-Elcac’s barangay development program say that it is not necessary because the projects for the communities could be handled by existing departments. They also suspect that the large amount allocated for the NTF-Elcac might be used instead for the election next year.
Binay herself said earlier that some of the task force’s projects may be redundant because they were already being implemented by other agencies.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.