MEN and women from the US and Philippine military are building two classrooms in a school in Barangay Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, as schools nationwide start preparing for next month’s opening of classes.
Mayor Paz Radaza thanked the US Air Force and Philippine Air Force (PAF) during yesterday’s ground-breaking ceremony at the Buyong Elementary School, saying the City needs to cope with the yearly increase in the number of enrollees.
“Since the start of my administration, I’ve made education part of my top priorities,” she said in a message she delivered before teachers and soldiers.
The US Air Force is funding the project, which is being implemented by its 374th Civil Engineering Squadron.
About 30 members of the squadron, which is based in Japan, are constructing the two-room school building with the help of volunteers from PAF.
The US Navy will also build one classroom in Carcar City as part of the US Government’s support to the Philippines. The project is in partnership with the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen), which had already signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the US Navy 30th Naval Construction Regiment through Lt. Junior Grade Dylan Bush.
The foreign Navy will shoulder the cost of the construction of the classrooms in Valencia, Carcar City.
Lieutenant Kory Carpenter, the project in-charge from the US Air Force, said their target is to complete the construction by June 28.
Brigadier Gen. Raymundo Elefante, commander of the 560th Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City, said the building will be constructed using high-standard materials.
Carpenter did not disclose the project’s cost, but he assured the structure will be built in accordance with the standards set by the Department of Education (DepEd).
After last year’s earthquake and super typhoon destroyed schools, the DepEd has set a higher standard for school buildings, with each classroom now costing at least P1.2 million from P800,000.
“I hope (the children) get to use the building to further their education,” Carpenter said in an interview with reporters.
Their squadron also implemented a similar project in Legaspi, Albay as part of their Pacific Unity program, he added.
For Lapu-Lapu, they sought the help of officials at the Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base in finding a recipient.
Elefante and Carpenter said the project is not part of the Balikatan Exercises, the ongoing training program of the Philippine and US military.
Last school year, the Buyong Elementary School had 1,300 pupils attending classes in only 17 classrooms.
Dr. Eduardo Ompad, DepEd Lapu-Lapu City Division superintendent, said Grade 1 and Grade 2 pupils will use the donated classrooms.
Bigger schools are implementing double shifting of classes to accommodate the increasing number Grade 1 and Grade 2 pupils, said Ompad.
He said a number of school buildings is being constructed to address the city’s lack of classrooms, but keeping up with the growing population of students remains a challenge.
He said the number of enrollees in public schools increases by 3.5 percent every year.
Radaza said the city lacked about 500 classrooms and she hopes to reduce the shortage by half by 2016.
“We are slowly achieving this goal,” she said, adding she hopes the donation in Buyong Elementary School will encourage more groups to build classrooms.
Among the nongovernment organizations that are donating classrooms in Lapu-Lapu are the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Aboitiz Foundation and East Asia Utilities, Inc.
Meanwhile, Navforcen Commodore Reynaldo Yoma said construction experts from the Philippine Navy will augment the forces of US Navy and will help them during the construction.
Yoma told Sun.Star Cebu said at least 15 personnel from the Naval Construction Brigade (Seabees) will be assigned to the area for the project.
Yoma said they are just waiting for the confirmation from its national headquarters so they can deploy their personnel and start the project.
The agreement also states that Navforcen will allow the US Navy to use their facility at the Rafael Ramos Naval Base as equipment storage.
US Navy troops arrived in Cebu early this week bringing with them construction materials and equipment; some have been to the site to start some ground works.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is set to be conducted next week.
Aside from Carcar City, the US troops are also set to construct other classrooms in other towns in Cebu once the first project is completed.