Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda has bewailed the unsolved school building backlog in the country although Congress has given billions of pesos for the school building program.

Legarda pointed this out in yesterday’s (Sept. 29) public hearing by the Senate finance subcommittee D on the proposed 2023 P666.25 billion budget for the Department of Education (DepEd).

It was attended by Vice President Sara Duterte, concurrent DepEd secretary. The public hearing started at 3:19 p.m and ended at 7:35 o’clock last night.

Legarda asked why funds worth P3.199 billion allocated in 2022 for the construction of basic education facilities has a very low utilization rate of 13.45 percent.

She also noted that since 1998, her first term as senator, the DepEd always had an annual backlog in providing enough school buildings, classrooms, study tables, among others, to students.

“This has always been one of the challenges of the department. It’s already the 2023 budget and it’s still a challenge. My question is, will there be a time when we will no longer have backlog?” Legarda asked.

Duterte assured the committee that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and DepEd have already included the problem in the list of issues that they would tackle in their upcoming meetings and promised that they will immediately address it.

“We hope that by the time we reach the plenary we will be able to address this. It is an annual problem, not just at your time but with previous administrations as well,’’ Legarda said.

‘’Otherwise, the allocated funds are only wasted. Even if we want to increase your budget, it will just be wasted if they remain unused,” Legarda said in English and Filipino.

Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, had said that on top of the backlog is the need to build at least 10,000 classrooms yearly to house the annual increase in public school enrolee.

DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla has told the Senate basic education committee that DepEd needs ₱86.5-billion for the construction of more classrooms next year, and it does not even fully address the shortage.

“The ₱86.5-billion is actually not the overall shortage, this is just what we think should be implemented in 2023,” Sevilla said.

During the same committee hearing Senator Grace Poe called on her colleagues to retain the funding for the government’s feeding program.

Poe praised officials for increasing the allocation for the implementation of the National Feeding Program.

She, however, called for a review of the program to expand its coverage and increase the number of its beneficiaries.

“It’s really important that our children go to school nourished. It doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Poe, who pushed for the enactment of the law.

“This is also crucial to the development of the country, that the children are fed well, educated well, and are cared for well,” she pointed out.

Source: Manila Bulletin (