Press Release
February 9, 2009

Consensus reached on 'text-for-change' bill among stakeholders

A consensus has been reached among stakeholders in education and health care systems in the country to thresh out their differences on the "text-for-change" bill aimed to address the ballooning backlogs in the more than 43,000 public schools nationwide.

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises and author of Senate Bill (SB) 2402, made the summation at the resumption of today's hearing on the measure.

"We want everyone's help here; we do not have time to lose. We can discuss how to craft this law better. I hope the telcos (telecommunication companies) cooperate on this matter. Mas maganda kung bukal sa kalooban," Gordon said.

According to him, the stakeholders, including the representatives of giant telcos' Smart and Globe, have agreed to work with the Senate's Technical Working Group at the Lights and Sound Museum, Intramuros on Feb. 12, to discuss details of the measure.

Presidential Assistant for Education Mona Valisno, representatives from the Departments of Education, Health, and Science and Technology, the National Telecommunications Commission, who were all present during the hearing, expressed support to Gordon's proposal.

The three telecommunications giants Smart Communications, Globe Telecoms and Sun Cellular through their legal representatives, also agreed in principle to SB 2402, an Act creating the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP) Corporation.

The HEAP bill proposes that telecommunications companies remit a small portion of their annual net revenues from local text messages to the HEAP Corporation, which will spearhead the rehabilitation and improvement of the country's public school system.

"We need to do this now because we are never going to do it if we do not do this now. We have no time to lose. I want to catch the wind in June. So, let us try and get this done," Gordon said, referring to the school opening four months from now.

"There are approximately two billion text messages sent a day. If we get 10 percent, that would be P200 million a day or P73 billion a year. That is more than enough to fill the gaps in health and education infrastructures in just a year's time," he added.

Government official figures reveal that at present the country's public school system lacks at least 12,000 classrooms, four million seats, 63 million textbooks, 39,000 teachers and 8,000 principals.

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