Press Release
October 13, 2015

Recto bats for more funds to DepEd's 'bike and bancas' project

Because lack of transportation or high fares is a leading cause of school absences, government will fund the purchase of "bancas and bicycles" to boost school attendance and reduce drop out rates, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto said today.

Under the Department of Education's (DepEd) "pedals and paddles" project, the agency will bankroll the purchase of "small boats, motorized boats, and bicycles," Recto said.

In its 2016 budget briefer, DepEd said it will spend up to P10,000 for a small boat that can accommodate three to five kids and up to P50,000 for a motorized banca that ferry 15 to 20.

It will also spend up to P3,000 for a refurbished bicycle, Recto said, quoting the DepEd proposal.

Both programs are lodged under the agency's "last-mile learners" initiatives which also target schools in hard-to-reach areas and those not connected to energy grids.

Recto welcomed DepEd's "novel idea as an effective deterrent to school absenteeism brought about by transportation barriers."

"There was one survey which tagged high transportation and long commutes as reasons for fluctuating school attendance and triggers for dropping out," Recto said.

"In the case of riverine communities where waterways serve as highways, the dearth of boats prevent children from attending school regularly," he added.

"Pero lupa man o tubig ang dadaanan, kahit may pagkaing baon na ang bata pero kung wala namang pamasahe or walang masakyan, paano siya makakapasok?" the senator lamented.

"Kung sa ngayon, P12 ang pamasahe one-way, at dalawang magkapatid will ride in tandem, then that's P48 saved a day or about P1,000 a month. On a 10-month school calendar, that's P10,000 a year," he said.

"The use of these bikes and bancas must be linked to school attendance. If you ride, you must do well in school. This is another form of CCT--Conditional Communal Transport," he added.

Recto batted for more funds for the programs "because if the allocation will be taken from the department's proposed budget of P445 million for Alternative Learning Systems, then clearly it won't be enough."

Any budgetary augmentation, Recto explained, will allow DepEd to match the equity provided by its NGO partners.

In the case of boats, DepEd's collaborator is the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation while the Bikes for the Philippines is its partner bike program.

With the help of these "admirable NGOs," the "Pedals and Paddles Project" aims to provide 35,734 bikes and 1,216 boats to learners in far-flung and hard-to-reach areas.

"I think we should double the target at the very least. Certainly, we can find budget space to fund the additional acquisitions," he said.

DepEd's proposed 2016 outlay is P411.4 billion, of which P59.1 billion is in Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) and P99 billion is for Capital Outlays.

"Or we can cut fat in other agencies, or rechannel funding for slow-moving and unimportant projects to these. These are purchases, off-the-shelf in the case of bikes, so there are no procurement kinks that will lead to underspending," Recto said.

In his first term in the Senate, Recto proposed a Bike-for-School program that will be given to indigent students living far from school.

In his proposal, Recto said grantees can amortize the bikes in easy "rent-to-own" terms. "It will have multiple uses because if the father is a farmer, he can use it to ferry his backyard produce to the market during weekends.

"A bike is fuel-free, easy to maintain, promotes exercise, a green vehicle, and a tool for literacy." Recto said.

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