(STAR) By Aurea Calica - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) announced yesterday an allotment of P8.6 billion to finance the hiring of additional teachers, construction of more classrooms and purchase of additional textbooks, which are all included in the proposed P46.43-billion supplementary budget submitted to Congress.

"This spending measure gives emphasis to education, which is one of the top priorities of the administration," Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said.

Andaya said the Department of Education (DepEd), among government agencies, will get the biggest slice of appropriation in the supplemental budget.

He said the shopping list for education, once approved by Congress, would open up more than 4,500 new teaching positions to complete the 10,000 annual requirements for new teachers this year.

Andaya added the education-based supplemental budget would also provide for the construction and renovation of school buildings, particularly the 28 library hubs and 16 regional learning centers nationwide.

About 18.1 million pairs of textbooks and instructional materials are to be purchased, which will provide one book for each student in all grade levels, he said.

The House committee on appropriations approved last Thursday the proposed spending measure, but moved to realign P1 billion from the proposed allocations of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to the DepEd, specifically for the rehabilitation of dilapidated and unusable classrooms.

With this development, Andaya said the government hopes to accommodate more students and ease the ratio of students and classrooms.

If ratified in the plenary, the amendment will bring down DAR’s share in the supplemental budget to P3.593 billion and effectively increase DepEd’s allocation to P9.6 billion.

Aside from the new teaching positions, classrooms and textbooks, the P8.58 billion supplemental budget for education will be used to fund government’s programs for school feeding, pre-school education, basic education Madrasah for Muslims, computerization, among others.

Palace lauds energy sector for power rate cuts The Philippine Star 08/06/2006

Malacañang lauded the energy sector yesterday for participating and cooperating with the government in undertaking the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), a system that could give consumers lower power rates in the coming months.

"The whole energy sector must be credited for its solidarity and sense of common purpose in making the (WESM) work," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said.

In a statement, Bunye said WESM is part of President Arroyo’s energy independence program, which includes the rationalization of energy use at all fronts and increasing investments in alternative fuels.

WESM is a system wherein electric companies can purchase power from different power generation plants, particularly from those offering lower rates.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier expressed elation over the estimated 52 centavos per kilowatt-hour reduction in power rates this month.

"She is at the helm of the effort to fix up the entire energy system — from generation to distribution and retail — to ensure that the average Filipino family obtains maximum benefit from a free market," Bunye said.

With WESM, Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo wants to make sure the public, particularly lifeline rate consumers, will enjoy lower rates.

Lower power rates are also expected in the coming months because of cheaper power from the maximum utilization of hydroelectric plants. — Aurea Calica

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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