Press Release
October 7, 2008

Senate resumes public hearing on "text for change" measure

The Senate panel will attempt to forge a revenue-sharing scheme with telecommunication companies (telcos) as it resumes public hearing on the proposed text revenue measure requiring them to remit a portion of their net profits to fund education and health care.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, said he expects that legislators and guest resource persons will be able to thresh out details of Senate Bill 2402, also known as the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP), to come up with a better measure.

"This bill is our investment for the future of our children. We want to give our school children the best education they can have by improving the country's education and health care infrastructures and enhancing the skills of our teachers," he said.

SB 2402 proposes that telcos remit part of their net revenues from local text messages to the HEAP Corporation, which will spearhead the rehabilitation and acceleration of health and education infrastructures in the country.

Gordon stressed the need to pass the bill, saying that the critical condition of the education and health care system in the country is an urgent concern that needs to be addressed immediately.

"The pitiful condition of our educational system is a brutal reality that our school children experience every time they go to school. We have to do something to address this predicament, and we should do it now," he said.

The country suffers from an existing backlog of 9,754 classrooms at the cost of P7.31 billion; 4,121,009 school seats at P4.12 billion; 63,178,377 textbooks at P4.21 billion; 39,762 teachers at P5.28 billion and an additional P79 million for their training; and 8,499 principals at P1.66 billion.

Moreover, there is also a shortage in the Department of Education's (DepEd) health manpower with only 154 medical officers, 617 school dentists, 3,254 school nurses, 570 dental aides, and 32 nutritionists-dietitians for the more than 17 million public school students nationwide.

Gordon said he expects that the guests for Wednesday's public hearing would be able to enlighten telcos on the real situation of the country's health and educational system.

Expected to attend the hearing are Dr. Loureli Siy, President of Private Secondary Schools Administrators Association of the Philippines (PRISSAAP); Dr. Bonifacio Miguel, Philippine Public School Teachers Association (PPSTA) Trustee; and Dr. Marino Baytec, Chairman of PPSTA.

"Once and for all, we must hear the voices of the people who will be directly affected or benefited by this measure. We expect that they would voice out their opinion and suggestions to improve the bill," Gordon said.

Other organizations also invited to participate include Text Power Organization, a group of mobile phone users that aims to empower Filipinos both as consumers and as citizens; and the Kiwanis Club International.

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