Group to Congress: Increase funding for education, social services in 2021 budget
In this September 4, 2020, photo, members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers troop to Congress as budget season opens to call for bigger education and social services funding.
Group to Congress: Increase funding for education, social services in 2021 budget
( - September 4, 2020 - 12:07pm

MANILA, Philippines —  As Congress opens deliberations for the 2021 budget on Friday, a group of teacher unionists are urging that bigger funding allocations be given to the education and social service sectors. 

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers staged a demonstration outside the gates of the House of Representatives "to demand bigger funding for safe, accessible, and quality education amid the pandemic and beyond."

The group also urged the overhaul of what it called a "repressive, pork-infested spending program," in order to prioritize social services that would aid the country's recovery from the coronavirus-induced health and economic crises.

"Realign the [excessive] intelligence and war funds to the health system, education, and to aid provision for grappling families and essential institutions. Infrastructure budget should go to the building of schools and medical facilities. These are where our money should go,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.

The proposed national budget submitted to Congress by the Department of Budget and Management last week revealed that President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking a combined P20-billion increase in funds for the military and the national police in 2021.

The 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP), a copy of which was obtained by The STAR from the House appropriations committee, increased the fund of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from P186 billion this year to P203 billion next year.

The NEP also set the Philippine National Police budget for 2021 at P190.85 billion or an increase of P3.25 billion from P187.6 billion this year.

Meanwhile, DBM denied the Department of Education P65 billion supplemental budget request for its learning continuity plan.

Education Undersecretary Anne Sevilla, during a virtual briefing, called the request a conservative amount, primarily meant to cover the provision of laptops to all public school teachers, as well as to fund the upholding of minimum health standards in basic education schools and offices.

ACT urges more funds for distance learning

The group further argued that the public education system has long suffered from a lack of funding and that these unfavorable conditions were drastically aggravated by the sudden shift to distance learning necessitated by the pandemic. As a result, ACT warned that millions more of students could be "disenfranchised and endangered."

“The pandemic fully exposed the weaknesses of our education system, as well as of other social institutions, caused largely by year after year of insufficient funding," Basilio said.

“With DepEd’s poorly funded remote learning plans, at least 4 million learners are at risk of being left behind while the rest are set to endure diminished learning quality. These alone are grave injustices to the youth. No amount of making up by teachers will suffice, especially with the weakening of our ranks due to COVID-19 infection,” he added.

The group argued that a budget increase for the education sector is needed both to address the challenges presented by distance learning currently as well as to prepare schools long term for any future disease outbreaks similar to COVID-19.

“Specifically, to ensure the youth’s right to education, we call on Congress to fund the provision of gadgets, self-learning modules, and other tech infrastructure for distance learning. All teachers and indigent learners must be issued laptops/tablets and internet allowance of at least P1,500/month," ACT said.

In addition to this, the teacher unionists called for sufficient protection and compensation for both teaching and non-teaching personnel.

"Being frontliners, it’s only just that the government fully subsidize COVID-19 testing and treatment of education workers, while teachers should also be finally granted sick leave benefits. Finally, ensure school safety by addressing age old shortages in sanitation facilities and personnel, and providing clinics and nurses in every school."

READ: Teachers' group lists requisites for 'quality education' amid COVID-19 pandemic

— Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from The STAR

SCHOOL YEAR 2020-2021
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 9, 2020 - 12:24pm

Follow this thread for updates on when classes will resume, and how those classes will be conducted.

Photo: Students wearing protective face masks have their temperatures taken while entering their college campus in Manila on January 31, 2020. AFP/Ted Aljibe

October 9, 2020 - 12:24pm

A group of teachers warns of class disruptions and drop-outs if the problems have not been resolved a week after classes were opened.

“The Department of Education should objectively assess and boldly address the critical problems experienced in the first week of school opening, rather than patting its own back for its imagined success. If the agency has any foresight, they should know that the school year they opened is hanging by a thread,” says Raymond Basilio, Alliance of Concerned Teachers secretary general.

October 6, 2020 - 10:54am

The resumption of classes on Monday was not a victory as claimed by Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan says in a statement.

"Our leaders look at the millions disenfranchised and call it victory. They look at the teachers contracting the virus and march forward. They look at the millions of dropouts and four students dead and call it a new venture," the group says.

"You send millions to school with an underfunded and exclusive education system that leaves millions out anyway. Opening classes does not mean that you have accomplished the slightest thing. We have raised our voices for six months, and you have sat on your hands watching dropouts rise. This is not victory over COVID-19, this is the defeat of common sense," the youth group adds.

October 5, 2020 - 8:04am

Education Secretary Leonor Briones officially declares school year 2020-2021 open in an address streamed through Facebook.

She says this ends the debate on whether classes should resume and whether the department is ready for the blended learning system required by health and safety protocol against the novel coronavirus.

October 4, 2020 - 12:49pm
As public school teachers get ready for the resumption of classes on Monday, Sen. Risa Hontiveros calls for government support for them, including the proper medical benefits in case they get sick.
She says teachers should also get an additional allowance for internet access and to print out learning materials as well loans for computers and laptops for them to implement distance education.
"The government should spend for these because this is part of the teachers' official obligations," she says in Filipino.
October 3, 2020 - 2:51pm

A group of teachers calls for accountability from the government for "delaying and still failing to ensure the delivery of safe, accessible, and quality education amid the pandemic."

“We’ve repeatedly heard Sec. Briones give thanks to the President over his claimed ‘support’ for blended learning. Yet, after two postponements, President Duterte still has nothing to show beyond lip service," says ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.

"This government remains to be unresponsive to the people’s just and urgent demands in relation to school opening at the height of the health and socio-economic crisis. This is a huge disservice to the Filipino people and a violation of the youth’s fundamental right to education, with the President as the main culprit while Sec. Briones was complicit to these injustices,” he adds.

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