Press Release
October 5, 2020

2,370 schools used vs COVID underscore infra need of 'Dept of Evacuation and the Displaced'

At least 1,797 public schools have been utilized as quarantine facilities during the pandemic, with 573 about to be used, which could bring to 2,370 the number of schools requisitioned in the fight against COVID-19.

"This proves once again that DepEd is indeed the Department of Evacuation and the Displaced," said Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

Recto said based on DepEd's own "partial and unofficial count", 874 schools are currently used as isolation facilities as of October 4, while 924 have been used in the past.

There is, however, a pending request to open 573 schools, where returning residents or individuals who have tested positive from the coronavirus can be quarantined.

While they account for a fraction of the 47,188 DepEd-run schools, "most of them are in town centers, the so-called big central schools," he said.

Recto said the count does not include facilities of state and city colleges and universities that have been transformed into isolation quarters.

"Pagdating sa sakuna o kalamidad, ang DepEd ang kauna-unahang frontliner agency sa Pilipinas. Unang takbuhan ng mga biktima," Recto said.

He said public classrooms have become "Swiss knives, multipurpose in use."

"Doon unang sumisilong ang mga lumilikas mula sa bagyo, baha, lindol, pagsabog ng bulkan at landslides. They are also the first option refuge for victims of manmade calamities like fires and military-rebel clashes," Recto said.

Schools have also been used as billeting quarters during athletics meets, science fairs, school press conferences and elections, Recto said. "Teachers major in teaching and minor in hotel accommodation. Ito ang mga unang libreng Airbnbs."

Recto said the classrooms' "other important uses" make their construction a top government priority, which must be annually reaffirmed in the national budget."

"Hindi pwedeng tingnan ang mga ito as places of learning lang. They should also be seen as safe havens for victims of calamities during this time of climate change, when storms are getting more frequent and stronger in a country that is prone to multiple disasters."

Recto said the pandemic has also created a new class of evacuees sheltering in public schools. "Ito yung mga bakwit, mga transferees mula sa private schools. Halos 400,000 sila."

Mainly to erase backlogs, 66,493 classrooms must be built, DepEd said. But according to Recto, only 5,174 will be funded for construction next year at a cost of P12.9 billion.

About 70,613 classrooms require repair, but the proposed 2021 national budget has funds for only 10,444 classrooms.

While he has been advocating for the construction of more disaster evacuation centers, such as multipurpose gyms and multi-storey dormitories, Recto said "pragmatism dictates that more classrooms should be part of our inventory."

"Ideally, these permanent evacuation centers should be outside our schools, so that students will not be displaced when calamities strike. But the practical side which can't be ignored is that schools will continue to open their gates to the unfortunate because these are their neighbors, parents and members of the community," Recto said.

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