MANILA, AUGUST 16, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Dona Z. Pazzibugan - With less than P300 million left of its contingency funds, the Department of Education (DepEd) may have to tap into the national government’s calamity funds to make emergency repairs to hundreds of flood-affected public schools.

DepEd field engineers are currently assessing the damage wrought on public elementary and high schools in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces by the recent monsoon and Tropical Storm “Helen” that brought heavy rainfall and flooding.

Annabelle Pangan, officer in charge of DepEd’s physical facilities and schools engineering division, said they had already spent more than half of the DepEd’s P550-million quick response fund (QRF) this year.

“To date, only P255 million remains in the QRF since we have used the rest for schools damaged by the earthquake in Negros and Cebu,” said Pangan, referring to the 6.9-magnitude earthquake that hit western and central Visayas in February.

She said they would come up with the damage report from the recent massive flooding within the week.

Out of the DepEd’s P238.8-billion budget this year, P550 million was allocated for its QRF to finance emergency repairs on schools damaged by disasters such as floods, typhoons, earthquakes and fire.

“These are for schools which need immediate repairs to restore them to normalcy,” Pangan said.

“If the remaining QRF will not be sufficient, we’re working with the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) to tap a portion of the calamity funds of the national government,” she said.

According to the DepEd engineering office, 7,230 public schools nationwide have been damaged by either flooding, landslides or volcanic eruptions in the last three years.

Schools to remain open

They make up 15 percent of the nearly 46,000 public schools in the country.

Luis Purisima Jr., assistant chief of the DepEd’s physical facilities and schools engineering division, said their database showed that 6,619 public schools experienced flooding in the last three years.

There consisted of 5,544 elementary schools and 1,075 high schools.

Another 529 public schools—411 elementary schools and 118 high schools—were damaged by landslides.

Another 82 public schools—68 elementary schools and 14 high schools—experienced volcanic eruptions.

Purisima said the schools were not automatically closed, including those damaged by landslides. “They will be assessed whether they will be declared unsafe,” he said.

Knowing which schools are prone to hazards helps engineers in the rehabilitation, he said.

“Since we know which schools are prone to floods, we can elevate the structure when we construct next time and repair the drainage,” he said.

Purisima disclosed that last year, 80 percent of the 1,334 public schools randomly inspected by the DepEd and the Department of Public Works and Highways had classrooms and school buildings with “structural defects.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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