Press Release
August 31, 2013

From pork to 'BEEF' - Basic Education Enhancement Fund

As lawmakers scramble to turn pork into graft-free good projects, a Senate leader today called for a conversion of a large chunk of the Priority Development Assistance Fund into spending that will put more teachers, classrooms, science labs and even meals for malnourished children in public schools.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said if plans to scrap the P26-bllion PDAF in the proposed 2014 national budget will push through, "then a big portion of that amount must go to education."

Recto has even jokingly coined a name for the rechanneled pork : BEEF or Basic Education Enhancement Fund.

"But seriously, the idea is for education to hog, pardon the pun, whatever will become of PDAF, should Congress decide to take it out of the budget," Recto said.

"The work now is how to pound pork barrel into schools, computers, laboratory equipment and even kitchens that will serve meals to malnourished pupils," Recto said.

He described education spending as the one that "gives the best social ROI" (return-on-investment). "All development blueprints are one in saying that investing in education is the best building block for progress."

Although next year's proposed DepEd's budget of P340 billion will finance a never-before-seen classroom-building- and teacher-hiring-spree, "backlog in other areas will remain and new needs will be created," Recto said.

"For example, according to DepEd itself, half of the 38,503 public elementary schools lack computers. When it comes to math and science laboratories, although there is a P2.6 billion proposed allocation for these in 2014, we're still far from the halfway mark in providing all schools with one."

Recto also cited the need to provide more in-school meals to poor malnourished students. "DepEd says almost 4 percent of Grade 1 to 4 students are 'severely wasted' and almost 11 percent are 'wasted.'"

"Although there is a P1 billion fund for a feeding program in the 2014 DepEd budget, this will only benefit half a million students, and the meals will not be available daily," he said.

Another funding gap that needs to be closed, Recto said, "is the one on libraries." He said government will only be able to build 10 next year.

There is also the need to create more scholarship grants, not only in basic education, but in college and vocational schools, Recto added.

As to "needs on the horizon," Recto said the enrollment of the first batch of 658,816 Grade 11 students in 2015 will create a "huge classroom, teacher and textbooks need."

There is also the requirement to build this early technical-vocational facilities in 7,470 public high schools, Recto pointed out. "At a modest P5 million per school to set up basic sewing, cooking, electrical, plumbing, welding, computer repair workshops, the total tab is P35 billion," he said.

Clearly, despite government's laudable plan to hire 33,194 teachers, build 43,183 classrooms, and buy 42.6 million textbooks next year, "small pockets of shortages will remain," Recto said.

"And this can be erased by a rechanneled PDAF. So that when taxpayers ask Congress, "Where's the pork?" it can reply, "Here's the BEEF."

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