ASIDE from the problems that bug government projects, the construction and repair of classrooms in northern Cebu that typhoon Yolanda destroyed or damaged faced another challenge.
A quake and a super typhoon, occurring one after the other, raised the need for climate-resilient classrooms.
But Victor Yntig, Department of Education (DepEd) Central Visayas physical facilities coordinator, said designing classrooms that are typhoon- and earthquake-resilient has not been easy.
DepEd, he said, hired consultants to work with its engineers and those of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to come up with sturdier classrooms.
New classrooms are designed to withstand winds of up to 250 kilometers per hour. This means thicker, stronger roofing beams and roofing sheets. Footing, columns, beams and walls also need to be thicker.
Esther Roldan, an engineer of DepEd Cebu Province’s Physical Facilities Office, said that as of last October, the agency released a total of P235.76 million to 15 local government units (LGUs) in northern Cebu, which bore the brunt of Yolanda’s wrath.
The funds, which came from DepEd’s Basic Educational Facilities Fund (BEFF), were released in two batches starting last July.
When schools opened for the 2014-2015 school year last June, many students held classes inside makeshift classrooms.
A total of 276 new classrooms have been built in northern Cebu. DepEd 7 reported that 418 classrooms in northern Cebu need to be replaced as these were destroyed by Yolanda last November 8, 2013. A total of 595 classrooms have been repaired out of the 2,133 that were damaged by the typhoon.
These figures include classrooms repaired by the Aboitiz Foundation and Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI).
The DepEd 7 still needs to update its data.
It was scheduled to conduct a revalidation of completed classroom repairs and construction from Nov. 5 to 18 to determine the progress of rehabilitation work.
The agency’s records show that 346 have been repaired and 44 new classrooms have been constructed in Bogo City, where Yolanda damaged 346 and destroyed 160.
In Bantayan, Daanbantayan, Sogod and San Remegio, a total of 69 classrooms have been repaired using DepEd funds.
Yntig said progress in the rehabilitation of classrooms has been slow because of the tedious procurement process in government.
The same problem bugged school repair and construction in Bohol after the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in October last year.
And the damage caused by the disasters exacerbates a perennial problem.
“Aside from addressing the loss of classrooms due to typhoon Yolanda, DepEd is also addressing the shortage of classrooms all over the province and the region,” Roldan said.
The private sector and foreign donors helped move the rehabilitation work forward.
Aboitiz Foundation built 70 new classrooms and repaired 130 in Bogo City, San Remigio and Daanbantayan. The group received about P261.7 million in donations, way past its target of P200 million, for the school rehabilitation project.
RAFI, on the other hand, built 162 new classrooms and repaired 50 in Daanbantayan, and in the island towns of Madridejos, Bantayan and Sta. Fe. It also built eight new day care centers and repaired 12 such facilities for pre-school children.
Some foreign donations also went into school rehabilitation.
According to the Cebu Capitol’s status report on foreign-funded projects, the Swiss Humanitarian Aid gave a total of P2.92 million for the rehabilitation of school buildings in northern Cebu.
The Philippine Red Cross and German Red Cross donated a total of P273.6 million for recovery projects, which include the repair and reconstruction of school buildings and day care centers.
Project Hope of the United States donated P344,000 for school repairs in Camotes.
But coming up with sturdier classrooms means additional costs. A one-classroom building with the new design costs more than P1 million, almost double the cost of the old design.
According to the Cebu Provincial Schools Division, the P235.76 million from the BEFF was distributed to Bantayan (P42.05 million); San Francisco (P38 million);
Daanbantayan, P35.39 million; Sta. Fe, P28.1 million; Tuburan (P24.2 million); San Remegio (P14.9 million); Tabogon (P10.8M); Medellin (P9.79 million); Madridejos (P8.33 million); Tabuelan (P7.2 million); Tudela (P4.4 million); Sogod (P4.2 million); Poro (P4.2 million); Borbon (P3 million) and Pilar, P1.2 million.
Roldan told Sun. Star Cebu that the BEFF is part of the schools’ annual appropriation.
In the Cebu Provincial Schools Division, only 69 classrooms have been reportedly repaired as of last September, said Gerardo Mantos, DepEd Cebu Province Physical Facilities Office chief. These classrooms are located in Bantayan Island, Daanbantayan, Sogod and San Remegio.
The Cebu Provincial Government, through its Local School Board, also released about P500,000 to repair classrooms in affected LGUs in northern Cebu, said Provincial Board Member Peter John Calderon, vice chairperson of the Cebu Provincial School Board.
Calderon said the funds were taken from this year’s budget. The assistance could not be released earlier, he explained, because LGUs had to comply with requirements, such as the program of works and estimates (POWE).
According to the Cebu Province Rehabilitation Plan, the education sector needs P224.6 million from the Capitol for 2014 and P735.6 million from DepEd between 2014 and 2016.
Yntig said DepEd has realigned funds intended for school infrastructure to prioritize the post-Yolanda rehabilitation work.
The department’s remaining budget for 2014 will be used for the repair and construction of Yolanda-hit classrooms but Yntig cannot say how much will be allotted this year until they have determined what remains to be done.
The revalidation being conducted by DepEd engineers will also determine how much the agency would set aside for rehabilitation work next year. The results of the revalidation will be the basis for the POWE.
The revalidation will also cover classrooms repaired and built by the private sector.
Yntig admitted that the rehabilitation work would have been farther from the target without the help of non-government organizations, private sector and foreign groups.
He said DepEd 7 hopes that next year, it would be able to address the backlog in classrooms in other parts of Cebu.
Sometimes, the enormity of what needs to be done is “overwhelming.” Yntig said he feels helpless about the slow pace of the rehabilitation work.
But “we have to wait for the (funds to be) released. Dili man sad mi makaingon sa (DepEd) central office ug sa DBM (Department of Budget and Management) nga ‘kadugay ba ninyo diha (We cannot tell the DepEd central office and DBM that they are slow),’” he said.