Quake-hit students to spend school year in tents
“The Department of Education (DedEd) plans to provide temporary learning facilities in areas affected by the quake,” Jalad told reporters.
The STAR/John Unson / File
Quake-hit students to spend school year in tents
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — Displaced students in earthquake-ravaged areas in Mindanao are likely to continue holding classes in tents and makeshift learning facilities for the rest of the school year, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said yesterday.

Ricardo Jalad, NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense administrator, said the government would put up tent-type classrooms while the school buildings damaged by the tremor are being repaired.

“The Department of Education (DedEd) plans to provide temporary learning facilities in areas affected by the quake,” Jalad told reporters.

Jalad said classes in the towns of Makilala and Tulunan in Cotabato and some villages in Kidapawan and Davao del Sur remain suspended as of yesterday.

Aftershocks continued to rock Cotabato. A magnitude 3.1 quake struck 16 kilometers southwest of Makilala yesterday. It was felt at Intensity 3 in Kidapawan City.

Based on the NDRRMC’s data, a total of 29,453 structures were either totally or partially damaged by the succeeding quakes in Mindanao.

Of the number, the NDRRMC said 846 school buildings were damaged or destroyed in Central Mindanao and Davao region, displacing thousands of high school and elementary students.

Based on initial estimates, the DepEd said it needs at least P1.6 billion to fund the reconstruction and repairs of the damaged school buildings and classrooms.

DepEd budget hike sought

The DepEd’s budget for next year should be augmented in the wake of the damage sustained by classrooms and school buildings in southern Mindanao, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said yesterday.

“Congress cannot be impervious to a tragedy which threatens the schooling of millions of children,” Recto said.

“It is duty-bound to increase the DepEd’s capital outlay funds because the provision of a safe environment for learning should be given the highest reconstruction priority,” he added.

The DepEd’s school building budget for 2020, as proposed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), is P20 billion, a steep drop from its P171.7 billion original request, Recto said. 

By DepEd’s validated count, public schools lack 64,795 classrooms. The amount the DBM endorsed is only good for 8,000 new classrooms.

“The earthquake aggravated the classroom shortage. It has shaken the foundation of an already feeble allocation for a critical social infrastructure. The DepEd’s construction budget was already in a calamitous state before the earthquake struck,” Recto said.

He said the DepEd is asking P1.6 billion to replace the damaged classrooms, which is within the power of the Senate and the House to grant through next year’s general appropriations.

Sen. Bong Revilla filed a resolution urging the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local government units (LGUs) to conduct an audit of buildings and structures to ensure compliance with the standards set by the National Building Code.

Revilla said an audit is necessary to prevent loss of lives and damage to property.

He added that the DPWH and LGUs are mandated to strictly implement the National Building Code, which sets the technical standards in constructing and renovating buildings and structures in the Philippines. 

“This (earthquake) must be our last wakeup call; there should be no more shortcuts for the safety of our countrymen,” he said.

The bills creating a department of disaster resilience (DDR), salary increases for teachers and funding for a separate maximum security jail for heinous crime convicts are among the priority measures the Senate aims to pass before the end of the year.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said there is a good chance his proposal to create a DDR would be passed although lawmakers will have to grapple to find funding for the proposed agency.

He said the proposed DDR would not counter the push in the chamber to make the bureaucracy lean as the offices and functions under the NDRRMC will be gathered under the new agency.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the funding issues may be partly addressed by transferring the budgets of the NDRRMC, Office of Civil Defense and other related agencies to the DDR.

The head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has urged LGUs and engineers to provide the public templates of houses that could withstand strong earthquakes.

Science Undersecretary and Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said many Filipinos could not afford to pay engineers to ensure that their homes follow the National Building Code. 

“Perhaps the local government as well as professional engineering societies and the DPWH could come up with designs of ordinary houses that the public can choose from and will include a list of materials,” Solidum said.

“Those who cannot afford engineers can just copy the design to make sure that their houses are sturdier,” he said. 

Solidum said structures that followed the Building Code should have withstood intensity 8 quake, a notch higher than the intensity 7 shaking generated by last month’s tremors.  – With Helen Flores, Paolo Romero

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