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DepEd intends to construct 41,000 classrooms in 2012

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Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro said on Monday the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III is committed to address the shortage of classrooms in the country by building 41,000 rooms in 2012.

”We are to address increment of shortages in the year-to-year and for the 2012 budget, we intend to construct 41,000 classrooms,” Luistro said during the Senate hearing on the proposed P191-billion budget of DepEd for next year.

Luistro said out of the P18.2-billion allotted for the construction and refurbishment of school buildings in 2012, some P5 billion will be done through the public and private partnership or PPP program.

During last year’s budget hearing, the DepEd had expressed to address five key shortages that also included teachers, textbook, seats and water and sanitation facilities.

”By December 2012, majority of the shortages of the past years should have been addressed. Every year, there are classrooms repair. What we are catching is years of neglect,” Luistro said.

The DepEd chief said the department is determined to address the shortages of seats, saying deliveries of additional 2.5 million chairs will start before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Senator Franklin Drilon called on the Commission on Audit (CoA) to look into what appears to be a huge disparity between the cost-effective schoolbuilding program initiated by the lawmaker in partnership with the private sector and that of the DepEd.

“The CoA should look into it... That’s a proper area for a CoA inquiry,” said Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, in an interview with reporters.

Drilon said there is basis for the state audit agency to scrutinize the costing of the DepEd’s school building program, adding that the construction of each classroom through the Drilon-Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) program is cheaper by half compared to the cost of classrooms built by the government.

Drilon said that through his partnership with the private sector, cost effective school buildings would only cost P650,000 per building with two classrooms, while that amount would only build one classroom under the DepEd.

As such, Drilon asked the DepEd to study how to lower the outlay for the government’s school building program, using the Drilon-FFCCCII program as a blueprint.
DepEd officials led by Luistro said the government’s cost of building classrooms is relatively high, citing contractor’s tax and contractor’s profit, among others.
“This may be correct but this does not account for double the amount,” Drilon stated. “I’m not saying that they reduce their cost by half but make it a reasonable item.”
To date, the program has built about 1,400 classrooms all over the country since the Drilon-FFCCCII school-building program started in 2002. The fund comes from Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel.
Luistro also informed the Senate panel that the department is targeting to put up internet connectivity to at least 27,000 public secondary schools throughout the country.
”Right now, 68 percent of the high schools have internet connectivity,” Luistro said.
The DepEd is also aiming to address the lack of electricity in more than 9,000 public schools nationwide. (Jelly F. Musico-PNA)




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