Press Release
December 2, 2008

Enrile declares support to Gordon's "text-for-change" bill

No less than Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has declared support to Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon's bill that seeks to rehabilitate and improve the country's educational and health care systems.

Gordon welcomed Enrile's support to Senate Bill 2402, the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP), as he noted that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed that the Philippines was way off target in its goal of achieving quality primary education.

"I am much grateful that Senate President Enrile has declared his support to this bill. We really need all the support we can get from our colleagues to have this bill enacted into law," Gordon said during the floor deliberation of the annual budget of Department of Education.

Enrile said he will support the HEAP bill, which would require telecommunications companies (telcos) to remit part of their net income from text messaging to fund the program, provided that the consumers will not be burdened by the new tax law.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate government corporations committee, replied that a "no pass on" provision would be included in the bill so as not to pass the brunt to the consumers.

The Senate President added that he believes all the other senators would take his lead and support the bill especially with Gordon's assurance that the consumers would not be burdened by extra costs such as increased fees or taxes.

Apart from Enrile, Senators Manuel Roxas, Panfilo Lacson, and Edgardo Angara has expressed support to the HEAP bill, also touted "text for change".

Meanwhile, Gordon said that with his colleagues' support to the HEAP measure, the Senate would be able to immediately pass the bill especially that improving the quality of education is an urgent matter to be addressed.

He cited UNESCO's 2009 global monitoring report on Education for All (EFA) stating that many countries, including the Philippines, are depriving children of basic education because they have failed to address deep and persistent inequalities in education.

The UNESCO raised concerns over the conditions of schools and the quality of education Filipino pupils get, noting that many schools and classrooms need complete rebuilding or major repairs, at least one-third of students attend schools with insufficient toilets, schools suffer an acute shortage of seating, and nearly half of students go to schools without libraries.

The agency also observed that poor morale and weak motivation, caused mainly by inadequate salary, undermine teacher effectiveness.

"These are the very concerns I have been raising from the start, which is why I am eagerly pushing for the HEAP bill. The UNESCO report shows us that our country is in dire need of improving our educational system, and yet we fail to act on this very urgent concern," Gordon said.

The Philippines is one of the countries who pledged to meet the EFA goals by 2015.

Under the EFA are six goals, namely: expanded early childhood care and education; free and compulsory primary education for all; learning and life skills for young people and adults; increase in adult literacy by 50 percent; gender parity by 2005 and gender equality by 2015; and, improved quality of education.

"The UNESCO report says we are way off target in achieving high-quality basic education. That may be true. But instead of just accepting that fact, we must do something to immediately address the problem," Gordon said.

"I am very certain that with this HEAP measure, we can resolve all the problems in our educational and health care system. If we effectively implement this program, in five years' time there would be a big improvement in the quality of our country's education," he added.

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