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Senator vows funding support for learners with disabilities in 2023 budget

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Senator vows funding support for learners with disabilities in 2023 budget
Students of the Araullo High School in Ermita, Manila attend their first class during the opening of the new school year on June 3, 2019
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the lack of funding on the part of the Department of Education, learners with disabilities will receive funding support under the 2023 national budget, a senator vowed Friday.

The DepEd earlier admitted it has no funding for special education programs under the proposed national budget. "Despite our earnest efforts to advocate for our learners with special needs, it was not considered in the National Expenditure Program," it said in a September release. 

In a statement sent to reporters, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, outlined a number of proposals carried in the bicameral conference committee report on the 2023 national budget.

"It is good news for our learners with disabilities that we have allocated funds for programs that support them. We will continue to ensure that when it comes to quality education and the continued recovery of our country from the COVID-19 pandemic, learners with disabilities cannot be left behind," Gatchalian said in mixed Filipino and English. 

One proposal was to add P64 million to the Department of Education’s P96 million budget for the conversion of Special Education centers to Inclusive Learning Resource Centers for Learners with Disabilities.

The senator argued that the total amount of P160 million under the DepEd’s capital outlay will allow each region to convert at least one SPED center into a model ILRC.

The bicam report also carried Gatchalian’s proposal to allocate P100 million for instructional materials for learners with disabilities.

"This allocation, which covers learners enrolled in both the formal system and the Alternative Learning System, includes multiple platforms using electronic and online modes of delivery," the senator's statement read. 

Under the law, DepEd, in collaboration with local government units, shall initially establish and maintain at least one ILRC in every city and municipality in the country. The law also mandates that all existing SPED Centers shall be converted to and renamed as ILRCs.

ILRCs are mandated to implement inclusive education programs and deliver free support services to learners with disabilities, including language and speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical and physiotherapy, provision of qualified sign language interpreters, and other similar services, aids, and actions that facilitate the learning process. 

Though the last existing census on the disability community in the country was conducted in 2010, a 2017 study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies of 1,031 adult women and 823 children with disabilities in two cities, majority of respondents were found to be mobility-impaired (39.7%). 

According to DepEd data as of mid-March, there were 126,598 learners with disabilities enrolled in DepEd schools for School Year 2021-2022. This was 65% lower than the 360,879 recorded for SY 2019-2020. 

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES

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