House scrutinizes DepEd 2018 budget of P613B

The House committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) scrutinized the 2018 proposed budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) which once again will be getting the lion's share in the national budget.

DepEd officials led by Secretary Leonor Briones explained to House members that the agency's proposed appropriation of P613.1 billion is 7.9 percent higher than its 2017 budget of P568.4 billion.

During the hearing, the DepEd officials discussed the agency's top priorities for next year which are:

1. Fully implement K to 12;

2. Respond to President Rodrigo Duterte's expectations of DepEd:

a. Contribute to the campaign against illegal drugs by strengthening DepEd's contribution to demand reduction through preventive drug education;

b. Strengthen DepEd programs on reproductive health;

c. Give emphasis to disaster preparedness and climate change

3. Reach out to out-of-school youth and adults who failed to complete basic education through the Alternative Learning System or ALS; and

4. Address the institutional problem of budget underutilization.

Briones thanked the House members for their unwavering support in upholding education in the country.

The Department of Education truly appreciates the consistent support that Congress has given to it in pursuit of the goals of education in the country. I would like to acknowledge especially last year's full support from Congress and also the support of the Commission on Appointments, especially the congressional members of the Commission, Briones added.

In her preliminary remarks, committee vice chairperson Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora (1st District, Compostela Valley), who presided the DepEd budget deliberation, pointed out that the DepEd and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are closely tied particularly in the implementation of the schoolbuilding program of the government as well as in the other infrastructure endeavours related to education.

It was purposely designed and requested by this body that the DPWH will send representatives to this hearing so as to jointly and comprehensively answer queries related to the schoolbuilding programs and other concerns, as well as clear the air and avoid any confusion as to the policies in this respect, Zamora said.

Rep. Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay) has stressed that budgetary priority must be given to education as mandated by the Constitution.

He asked Briones to explain the inordinate delay in the repair of classrooms in the provinces of Albay and Sorsogon, especially in his district, which were devastated by Typhoon Nina in December 2016.

Lagman decried that almost a year after the typhoon, many classrooms that need urgent repair and even reconstruction have not been repaired or rebuilt.

Eight months after Typhoon Nina struck, not a single classroom has been rehabilitated or reconstructed, Lagman lamented.

Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Party-list, BAGONG HENERASYON), has asked the DepEd to explain the off-budget accounts of the department, citing the balance of P1.9 billion.

She said that the DepEd has been scouring for funds yet it has a huge sum of money, which is for operational and maintenance expenses.

Sayang naman, nagre-request tayo ng pondo kung saan-saan, meron naman pala tayong P1.9 billion. Actually, if you look at the entire account, it's P2.9 billion as of December 2016, Herrera-Dy said.

Rep. Micaela Violago (2nd District, Nueva Ecija) asked the DepEd to look into the lack of ventilation and electrical load capacity of the schoolbuildings that the department has constructed.

She also pointed out the delay or failure of the DepEd in undertaking the repair or rehabilitation of classrooms and schoolbuildings.

Violago complained that the repair, rehabilitation, or maintenance of schoolbuildings and classrooms would even be shouldered by the respective congressmen or congresswomen considering that the DepEd has the budget for the said purposes.

Hindi na kaya ng allotted budget naming (congressmen and congresswomen) yun Ang nangyayari, kami na ang nagpagawa (ng classrooms at schoolbuildings), kami pa ang nagre-rehabilitate, kami pa ang nag me-maintain Sana magawa ng DepEd ang kanilang tungkulin para sa ating mga eskwelahan, Violago said.

Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (1st District, Lanaodel Norte) expressed concern over reports that some children in evacuation centers in Iligan City and Balo-i, Lanao del Norte see the Independent State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as heroes.

He pointed out that radicalism starts in the Madrasah system, saying they do not teach basic education, they teach anti-Christianity.

I will file a bill mandating the Department of Education to look closely into, or perhaps deem illegal, the Madrasah schools that are operating outside ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), Dimaporo stressed.

Dimaporo also raised the issue of the budget and direction of the Palarong Pambansa.

Dimaporo underscored that education serves as a first line of defense in the fight against poverty.

Source: House of Representatives