Press Release
July 17, 2015


Sen. Chiz Escudero is informing Malacañang in advance of his plan to require a breakdown of the huge education-related lump sums in the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016, particularly the funding allocation for the government's school building project.

"I am telling education and budget officials to please break down the school building fund. I am assigning this homework early, so they won't be caught by surprise," said Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance.

The lawmaker described allocations for the construction and repair of classrooms as "traditionally the biggest lump sum" in the budget.

He noted that for 2014, P37.7 billion was appropriated for the construction of 43, 183 classrooms and P2.85 billion for the repair of 9,502 classrooms.

For this year, he said P45.7 billion has been authorized in the national budget for 41,728 new classrooms and 455 technical-vocational workshops. In addition, P2.93 billion has been allocated for the repair of 9,500 classrooms.

But despite the huge amount involved, Escudero said these allocations are not accompanied by specific details. "What's in the budget is just a one-sentence appropriations authority," he pointed out.

According to the senator, the "lack of specifics" could be the reason why the construction of classrooms is facing delays.

A review conducted by Escudero's committee in May and June this year on how these sums were spent revealed a huge backlog. Out of the 43,183 classrooms slated to be constructed last year, only 7,051 have been completed as of May 31, 2015.

Worse, not a single classroom has been built out of the 41,728 planned for the year, he said.

Escudero said the delays could have been avoided "if right from the very beginning, the schools where the classrooms will be built were already listed in the national budget."

"Slow implementation could have been averted if we enumerated in the budget preparation phase how many classrooms will be built at what cost and in what schools," he explained.

"Too much time was squandered in the project identification phase. There was too much to-and-fro in validating sites, for example," Escudero said.

To speed up implementation, the Senate finance panel chief said "it would help if the destination of funds is already spelled out in the national budget."

"Parang may sign board na. Ikaw na P1 million, papunta ka sa isang school sa Davao. Eh ang nangyari ngayon, instead of hitting the ground running at the start of the fiscal year, saka pa lang maghahanap kung saan itatayo ang classrooms," Escudero said.

He added: "If it were true that the approach used is the zero-based budgeting, then the assumption is that they were able to come up with final figure by increments, meaning you counted from zero."

"Ang nangyari yata ngayon ay reverse arithmetic. Meron tayong ganitong pondo, so paano natin ito ipamumudmod. Ang resulta: underspending. This putting-the-cart-before-the-horse kind of budgeting is what is crippling our school building program."

The senator is confident that itemizing the school building fund "will not only promote transparency but will also accelerate construction so that by the time schools open in June, ready-to-use classrooms have already been completed using the current year's appropriations."

Escudero conveyed his demand for lump sum itemization of the classroom fund after the Palace announced that the Department of Education will get the biggest slice of the 2016 budget and the largest funding increase.

The DepEd's budget will go up from P321.1 billion this year to P436.5 billion, or by P115.4 billion.

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