Department of Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones personally visited typhoon Lawin – stricken schools in the City of Ilagan along with a special management committee meeting (ManCom) with regional DepEd officials, school heads and local government unit executives held in Cauayan City, Isabela on November 5,2016.
“I should have made an even earlier visit upon learning that the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela are among the hardest hit areas by super typhoon Lawin if not for the Education Summit that I must also attend to,” Secretary Briones said.
DepED RO2 Director Estela Leon-Cariño together with ARD Benjamin D. Paragas and the rest of RO2 and SDO officials warmly welcomed the Secretary through a simple lunch with song and dance renditions from students of Cauayan City National High School with their mentors.
Briones responded to issues and concerns brought up in the discussion with Schools Division Superintendents and LGU officials particularly at the urgency of rehabilitating learning and office buildings sustaining major damages in the region.
Apart from the individual reports of the 9 SDOs Isabela Provincial Vice Governor Tonypet Albano bared the magnitude of damages sustained by the province in the education sector from typhoon Karen which was immediately followed by super typhoon Lawin. “We do counterparting of funds for the construction or rehabilitation of classrooms in the province,” VG Albano said. “With our requests for funding from the agency (DepEd), when do we expect them to be obligated?, “ he asked.
Secretary Briones assured LGUs of DepED’s support towards diminution of the nationwide backlogs of classrooms and other education related felt needs as the agency still holds the highest budgetary chunk under the Constitution.
“But you might be wondering why release of funds has seemed to have slowed down?,” she posed. She explained what normally happens when one moves (as new Secretary) to an “old house.” “I am joining a venerable old house which is over a hundred years old. Before I make my plans, it is important that I study this house –its strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities.
and its capacities,” she emphasized. “We are still catching up at how we shall be spending our 2015 and 2016 budgets. I had to make an inventory since day 1 and work on it relentlessly and “sleep in the job” if I had to just to make sure that our catch-up plans are all attuned to the agency’s priority needs,” Briones said.
She expects that in her stint financing must be prudent and economical which should translate to having sufficient teachers, school buildings, tools like computer kits, textbooks and school supplies.
“Otherwise, we shall be left behind,” she added and metaphorically referring to those unexpended bud- get as “The Sleeping Beauty.”
The Secretary moralized on the role of teachers in the community saying that teachers should be very thankful of the golden opportunity of being able to positively touch the lives of learners who eventually become successful members of the community in all walks of life.
“Why are we in the teaching?,” Briones asked . She emphasized that teachers receive more than the starting pay of other professionals like those with the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Responding to the release of the Performance –Based Bonus (PBB), she said that the delay is attributed to the guidelines which must have yet to be studied and approved by an inter-agency committee.
She emphasized, though, that teachers must focus on giving quality basic education for all as mandated by the Constitution over one’s personal comfort or benefits.
“I was also a classroom teacher and I can relate well with your situation. We have to teach ourselves proper economics,” Sec. Briones said.
Among other issues discussed during the special ManCom were the mechanisms in place with the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Service (DRRMS), Senior High School Curriculum, Plantilla items/appointments through Dir. Ronilda Co and Undersecretary Jesus Lorenzo Mateo, respectively.
Initial report coming out through the Consolidated Rapid Assessment of Damages Report (RADAR) covering classrooms, learning materials and equipment have reached a total of more than 1 billion pesos.
The Secretary assured every one of the availability of fund allocation for the needed construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation and procurement of materials and equipment given the viability of the timeline for catch-up plans.