Public school inside PMA faces closure

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Friday, December 9, 2011


A VILLAGE needs to have an elementary school to be sustainable and whole, yet Philippine Military Academy (PMA)-Fort del Pilar Barangay here may yet lose its own, together with its high school annex.

Fort Gregorio del Pilar Elementary School, which, together with the site of country’s premier military school, is named after the youngest general and hero of the Philippine Revolution, marked its 50th anniversary with uncertainty last Friday.

The cause of apprehension is a plan of the PMA to take over the area occupied by the elementary school and the annex of the Baguio City National High School in consonance with the academy’s “roadmap for development.”

In a joint resolution adopted in 2007, teachers, parents and community members noted that “the Philippine Military Academy has informed the Department of Education that (given) their roadmap for development, the area occupied by the Fort del Pilar Elementary School and Baguio City National High School-Fort del Pilar Annex shall be taken over by the PMA.”

The two parents, teachers and community associations (PTCAs) petitioned that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo intercede to allow the public elementary and schools to remain at their present site and to have the area segregated as such from the PMA reservation.

They cited a declaration in 1970 by then PMA superintendent, Brigadier General Aurelio Ugalde: “Be it known that it is hereby declared that henceforth the Fort del Pilar Elementary and High School located inside the PMA reservation shall not be transferred from its present site. This declaration is issued to enable parents, teachers and the school authorities concerned to pursue its development according to plans.”

“With that assurance,” the PTCAs noted, “what was originally a few grades school has now grown into a full elementary school and a complete high school with an enrollment of 1265 elementary pupils and 723 high school students as of August 2007”.

Aside from children of personnel and officers of the PMA, the two schools also serve children from five other adjoining communities in Baguio (Atok Trail, Loakan Apugan, Loakan Magsaysay, Kias and Springhills) and several sitios of Itogon, Benguet.

City Councilor Peter Fianza, chair of the local legislature’s committee on education, said the PTCAs’ resolution and a similar one from the City Council were endorsed, for comment and recommendation, to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In his memorandum for DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, DENR regional executive director Clarence Baguilat said the matter has also been referred to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as the area sought to be segregated and maintained as school site is within the academy reservation as per Proclamation 2405 of 1985.

Fort del Pilar Elementary School antedates the proclamation, having been established in 1961 on a former golf link for military officers, primarily to serve military dependents. It started with the first and second grade classes under teachers Lillian Kintanar and Nenita Ursais as an annex of the Loakan Elementary School. (Ramon Dacawi)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 10, 2011.

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