Almost a fifth of the P543 billion budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) this year will be used to construct new school buildings across the country.
The DepEd allocated P109.3 billion for the construction, replacement or completion of public school buildings, including those that will be used by incoming Grade 12 students in June.
The budget will be used for the construction of more than 37,000 new classrooms and replacement of around 10,000 classrooms nationwide, according to the budget department.
Based on the 2017 General Appropriations Act, the P109.3 billion budget allocation – which will be downloaded directly to the Department of Public Works and Highways – will also be used to construct technical-vocational laboratories and water sanitation facilities.
DepEd will also receive another P4.9 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of existing schools and sanitation facilities.
Another P2.5 billion was set aside for the procurement of school desks, furniture and other school fixtures.
The national government also allocated P1.6 billion for the amortization or lease payment of school buildings under public-private partnerships; P483 million as payment for schools constructed by the National Housing Authority; and P328 million for the electrification of schools on on-grid sites.
New classroom designs
Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier pledged to address the issue of delays in the construction of school buildings, citing the single design as one of the reasons.
She noted that some contractors would not bid on projects in areas with challenging conditions, such as those in islands or on mountainous areas.
“The conditions are different (so we cannot afford to have a similar design),” she added.
Having different designs will enable schools to adapt to the conditions of their respective locations.
“We’ll be working very closely with the DOST (Department of Science and Technology) in looking at the different characteristics of various locations,” she said in a press briefing.
“For example, a school on an island will require different materials and will cost differently from a school on the top of a mountain and a school located in a crowded urban area,” she added.
The DepEd chief likewise said that they would further develop the portable classroom concept introduced by her predecessor, Armin Luistro.
“We’re developing this prototype of a classroom, which will seat 50 learners. It produces its own connectivity. It will even produce its own water. Everything is complete, computer systems, whether there is signal or not. Whether there is storm or not, it will be very safe and it’s called an EGG,” Briones said.
“Why is it called an EGG? Because an egg has complete nutrients. As you are taught, with or without any external assistance, if conditions are right, you produce a chick. That is what our ‘EGG’ classroom will be like. And it can be transported to an island. It can be transported to the top of the mountain and so on,” she added.
In the 2017 budget, DepEd was also allowed to use a maximum of one percent of the P109.3 billion as a buffer fund to cover unforeseen changes in the detailed engineering design such as additional costs for hauling, site adaptation, demotion cost and changes in foundation.