DBM: Not enough funds to address classroom shortage in 2023 budget
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) admitted on Friday that the government does not have enough funds under the proposed P5.2-trillion 2023 national budget to address the classroom shortage in the country.
During the first day of budget deliberations of the House appropriations panel, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas questioned the P1.96 trillion funding for infrastructure projects in 2023, asking if these would address the 91,000 classroom shortage in the country.
In response, DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said of the P1.96 trillion, P429 billion will go to road networks; P177 billion for flood control systems, P105 billion to railways; P74 billion to buildings, including school buildings.
Pangandaman also said there is a separate budget item for school buildings which is P13.9 billion, saying this proposed budget was increased by P3 billion already.
“We already increased the budget for school building programs by P3 billion. However, we need to take into account the absorptive capacity of departments or agencies in the preparations of the budget,” she told lawmakers during the briefing.
When pressed by Brosas if the current budget has enough funds to address the classroom shortage in the country, Pangandaman answered in the negative.
“We don’t have enough funds for the backlogs of the classrooms,” she said.
Brosas pointed out how the P13.9 billion funds for school buildings and the P2.5 billion for housing and community are dwarfed by the infrastructure budget for road networks, railways, and right-of-way projects at P28.6 billion.
“Yung pondo na ito, why not aim for more funds for schools and public housing? More funds for the social services or hindi kaya cash aid? Mas mararamdaman ito ng mga ordinaryong Pilipino,” the party-list lawmaker said.
(The ordinary Filipino will feel this more.)
Pangandaman said that while the classroom backlog budget is not enough, the government uses methods to maximize the resources it has in addressing backlogs in government infrastructure, including classrooms.
“In preparing the budget, we also consider the fiscal space given to us by the Development Budget Coordination Committee. We have a formula to come up with a budget for each department, and we take into consideration the absorptive capacity of the agencies,” she added.
Earlier this month, the Department of Education (DepEd) said the agency proposed a P86.5 billion budget for constructing classrooms in 2023.
This could build 34,552 schools in first to sixth-class municipalities.
DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said the amount is still on appeal with the DBM for around P85.9 billion.
“The amount we are proposing is something that we think is doable. We’re not trying to propose something we cannot do in a year. It is now on appeal for around P85.9 billion because we are still negotiating with the DBM,” he said.
Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, schools are now set to implement full five-day face-to-face classes for School Year 2022-2023 starting on November 2.
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