7 months after Yolanda: Classes exposed

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Sunday, June 8, 2014


CEBU -- Red tape and the search for a “calamity-resilient” design slowed down the rebuilding and repair of schools damaged by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in some northern Cebu towns, the Department of Education-Central Visayas (DepEd-7) said.

Seven months after Yolanda struck and a week after public school classes resumed, DepEd and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have yet to start constructing new classrooms and repairing the damaged ones.

The National Government also has yet to release the funds needed for the construction of new classrooms and repair works proposed by the Cebu Provincial Government.

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Despite the delays, the agency is confident that majority of the damaged schools will be repaired and reconstructed before the end of the year, with help coming from non-government organizations (NGOs) and private donors.

As of May, NGOs and private groups pledged to build 46 new classrooms and repair 1,826 classrooms. A total of 366 classrooms need to be reconstructed and 1,973 others need to be repaired in the north.

Biggest share

Victor Yntig, head of the physical facilities division for DepEd in Central Visayas, said that a total of 353 schools were affected when Yolanda hit the Visayas last November 8.

ROOM TO GROW
ROOM TO GROW. Children, such resilient creatures, play in front of a public school in Bantayan, northern Cebu, a few days after super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) tore the roof off the building. Companies, foundations and non-government organizations quickly intervened, fi xing nearly 1,900 classrooms the storm damaged. (SUN.STAR FOTO/ALEX BADAYOS)


The Cebu Provincial Government alone will need P735.595 million to repair and replace classrooms in northern Cebu.

Education, which falls under the infrastructure cluster of the Province’s rehabilitation, recovery and development plan, has the highest funding requirement out of the proposed P12.2 billion needed for rehabilitation projects.

According to the plan approved by the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Cabinet Cluster last May 30, the Province will prioritize infrastructure projects related to education.

President Aquino has yet to approve the plan.

Based on the Province’s rehabilitation plan, the 16 local government units (LGUs) will need P431.229 million to repair classrooms, while P304.366 million is needed to replace classrooms destroyed by the typhoon.

Insurance

Fifteen towns and one city in northern Cebu suffered when Typhoon Yolanda struck last November 8.

The funds needed for the rehabilitation of school buildings will be coursed through DepEd.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) head Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. said that although some of the damaged classrooms are insured by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the Province will still help in case the release of the insurance claims is delayed.

The Capitol will also closely monitor the progress of the reconstruction and repair of school buildings that are being undertaken by NGOs to avoid duplication of funds.

Tribunalo expects the Province’s proposed budget for rehabilitation to decrease because of the NGOs’ efforts.

“You cannot ask for funds to build schools that were already built by other groups. If an NGO has already constructed or repaired a classroom, what we will do is deduct the cost of the schools they built from the government’s rehabilitation funds,” Tribunalo told Sun.Star Cebu.

‘No duplication’

The DPWH and National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) will help monitor the projects of NGOs and other donors, he said.

Tribunalo said the P12.2 billion needed for rehabilitation projects will be released in several tranches.

If the funds intended for a school that was assisted by an NGO are released, he said they may use the amount for another project or program in the rehabilitation plan.

Tribunalo said that the Province is coordinating with DepEd 7 to update their records on schools that have yet to be built and repaired.

When classes opened last week, Madridejos Mayor Salvador dela Fuente said that some schools in their town had to hold classes in tents.

Although there are complaints from the students regarding the heat inside the tents, dela Fuente said they somehow understand the situation.

He said that Madridejos alone needs some P50 million for the repair of classrooms out of the P180-million proposed budget for rehabilitation the town submitted to Capitol.

Adopted

Madridejos is among the towns that received aid from the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) and Swiss Caritas for the rebuilding of classrooms.

According to the report that DepEd 7 submitted to the DepEd office in Manila, the damage to school buildings in the different towns reached an estimated P974 million, excluding the schools “adopted” by NGOs and other donors.

The projects will be funded by DepEd’s Basic Educational Facilities Fund and will be implemented by the DPWH.

In an interview last week, Yntig admitted that the slow bidding and canvassing process is hampering the construction and repair works on the part of the government.

“Wala mi’y mabuhat kung ma-delay ang new construction ug repairs. Lisud na kay kami man say maquestion sa COA (We cannot do anything about the delay in the construction and repair. We would also be held liable by the Commission on Audit),” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Aside from the procurement process, conceptualizing the new design for calamity-resilient school buildings has also slowed down the rehabilitation efforts.

Timetable

DPWH came up with different proposed designs for one-storey buildings that would cost some P1 million for a one-classroom building, P1.8 million for two classrooms, P2.7 million for three classrooms, P3.5 million for four classrooms and P4.3 million for five classrooms.

Based on the timeline set by the DPWH, the initiation and pre-procurement of the construction phase started last May. The bidding proper will be done this month.

DepEd 7 expects the construction of new classrooms to start by July 7 and to be finish by December 3 this year.

As for the repair works, the projects are projected to pick up the pace in July and end in September this year.

DepEd 7 has so far started repairs in 11 public schools in the towns of Sogod, Bantayan, Daanbantayan, Madridejos, San Remigio, Sta. Fe and Poro. These are in public schools that donors did not reach.

Since aid was slow to reach some public schools, Yntig said the schools were forced to use their maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE) funds for minor repairs, while other schools relied on financial assistance from the local government.

However, Yntig said the funds can only serve as a sort of “Band-aid solution” for affected public schools.

Help coming

As with other relief and rehabilitation efforts after Yolanda, the bulk of the immediate assistance to DepEd 7 did not come from the National Government.

Through the help of NGOs, a total of 46 new classrooms and repair works in 1,826 classrooms were donated to DepEd 7.

Among the NGOs assisting DepEd are RAFI and Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (AFI).

Yntig said that RAFI has started repairing the classrooms and was scheduled to finish all repair works in the first week of June. It was also scheduled to finish constructing next month the new classrooms it pledged.

With the donations of NGOs and private groups, schools in northern Cebu have a remaining need for 270 new classrooms and 69 classrooms for repair.

Until these are finished, Yntig said that students of the affected schools will have to stay in makeshift classrooms.

He is optimistic, though, that the aid promised by the National Government will reach the schools that really need it. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 09, 2014.

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