Press Release
November 17, 2016

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's Interpellation On the Proposed Budget of the Department of Education

Sen. Grace Poe: Mr. President, I filed Senate Bill No. 160, or the Libreng Pananghalian sa Pampublikong Paaralan Act, that aims to institutionalize the feeding program in all public schools in K to 12. It also includes appropriation for the program. Although this has not yet been passed into law, there's basis for continuing enabling and capacitating the nutrition services of the DepEd. May I know from the sponsor of the budget, for the school-based feeding program under the health and nutrition services of the DepEd, if it is still P3.9 billion or still at P19 per student. And what is the basis of the amount of P19 per student?

Sen. Bam Aquino: Before I answer, let me state for the record that your bill as well as my bill and Sen. Honasan and Trillanes' bill, which all have similar subject matter is now under a TWG and we hope to come up with a committee report as soon as the budget is done. Mr. President, with your support, we can sponsor this and get it passed before Christmas.

Poe: That is such a good Christmas gift.

Aquino: We are very supportive of this bill. The four bills have more or less the same subject matter, just a few provisions are different, but we are currently consolidating all of these ideas to come up with a better version. We hope when the time comes,we can support this bill together on the floor.

Poe: Looking forward. Thank you, Mr. President.

Aquino: Mr. President, the P19 comes from the National Nutrition Council's menu of what children need to get out of malnourishment...the P3.9 billion is still there but as we both know, this is only for those who are currently malnourished. If we are to feed everyone, it will be closer to P44 billion.

Poe: Is this only for a period of 120 days?

Aquino: Yes, Mr. President, because the logic here is that you need 120 days of intervention to get a child out of malnourishment.

Poe: Mr. President...dahil meron ng funding na binigay dito noong nakaraang school year, pero ang dinig ko, malaking porsyento ng naibigay sa feeding program para sa nakaraang school year ay hindi nagasta. So dun sa binigay na budget para sa feeding program noong nakaraang school year, magkano po ang hindi nagasta dito?

Aquino: Mr. President, in last year's budget, 91.5% of the budget was utilized. There were just some issues on Region 8 and ARMM.

Poe: Ano po ang mga dahilan na nagpahirap sa pag-implementa sa programa sa ibang lugar para mapag-aralan natin kung paano natin mas mapapaghandaan yan.

Aquino: Mr. President...the 91.5% is basically the reported completion. The ARMM did not report on time but it doesn't mean that no children were supported, they could've been supported. ARMM is still submitting their data. Their number could go higher. In terms of Region 8 and other areas, they had some problems with procurement of the food so we're hoping, Mr. President, even DepEd can have some...actually procurement has been an issue for DepEd. We have talked about this a number of times. Whether it is computer system, tables and chairs or even part of the feeding program. We're hoping Mr. President, that this can be improved as the years go on.

Poe: Pwede bang makahingi ng sample ng menu ninyo sa isang paralan? Sa P19, anong klaseng mga pagkain ang kasama dito? Ito ba'y uniform o pare-pareho sa lahat ng paaralan o depende kung anong nabibili sa lugar?

Aquino: Mr. President, ito nakakagutom, gisadong munggo is P10.91, cheesy pork embutido is at P23.71--they averaged it out to P19. Malunggabi balls...P14.72 and lumpiang gulay is at P14.36. Meron din pong moringa shanghai roll at P15.42 and moringa veggie patty at P18, Mr. President.

Poe: Ito po bang mga sahog na ito ay binibili sa mga lokal na pamilihan, doon sa mga lokal na magsasaka o ito ba'y supplied ng iba't ibang kumpanya?

Aquino: Iba-iba po ang procurement nila. Yung iba po ay mula sa maliliit na entrepreneur, yung iba ay mula sa mga kumpanya. But in my version of the bill, it requires DepEd to source locally.

Poe: Mr. President, nais nating hilingin, maaaring hindi ngayon, ang mga pag-aaral nila doon sa mga nag-benepisyo sa feeding program para makita talaga na ang mga bata na ito na buto't balata o severly wasted, ay nagkaroon ng maayos na pagbabago sa kanilang pisikal na anyo at sa kanilang performance o kakayanan sa paaralan. Meron na bang pagsusukat nito o pag-aaral?

Aquino: Yes, Mr. President. After 120 days, they are weighed and they're checked if malnourished or not.

Poe: I just want to see the success rate of that, it could be used as basis for us to really justify the need to pass the bill.

Aquino: Unfortunately, Mr. President...75.64% pa lang sa mga beneficiaries ang lumipat sa normal status.

Poe: At least 75% of them would not have had that if we didn't have the feeding program. I will request that study from DepEd. Also I think it will help the good sponsor to be able to defend our bill to get the consensus and approval of our colleagues. Next is, it was mentioned by DSWD that the budget for preschool feeding program was actually cut to a lower amount because part of it was integrated with the DepEd's. So you've already coordinated which ones will actually be transferred to your program, am I correct? Did you actually had a chance to coordinate with the DSWD?

Aquino: Mr. President, the 3-year olds and four-year olds are with DSWD and when they turn 5 onwards they are with DepEd so the coordination is really more of a division of labor in that sense, Mr. President.

Poe: Nais ko ring matanong, doon sa mga bagong pinapagawang mga paaralan, nakaayos na ba yung sanitation design para sa ating mga palikuran para sa mga estudyante, mga lababo para makapaghugas ng kamay?

Aquino: Mr President, if the school building is one floor then it is one restroom per classroom, if it is more than one floor, the restrooms are on the side, on both sides.

Poe: More than one floor ang ratio, mas naiiba na?

Aquino: No, Mr. President. if it's one floor, it's one restroom per classroom. If it's a building style, meaning more than one floor, the restrooms are on the side, one for the boys and one for the girls.

Poe: Meaning, if it is more than one floor then the ratio is actually higher, meaning you'll have 10 classroom sharing one bathroom.

Aquino: Well there are cubicles, Mr. President.

Poe: Alright, so that will be the design.

Aquino: But, Mr President, I'm also quite cognizant that the sanitation or the cleanliness of these bathrooms may need oversight as well, on our end.

Poe: I think so, because it goes hand in hand with nutrition, general health, well-being and dignity of the students.

Aquino: Maybe a good question, kung may tubig ba yung mga banyong yun?

Poe: Isa pa yun.

Aquino: We have that data, do they have water? They have. I've been informed Mr President that they do have running water except for communities without water systems. In that case, it's the timba that they will have.

Poe: Moving to the next one is modernizing public schools. Is there a specific budget for audio visual equipment for public schools?

Aquino: Yes, Mr President, there is a huge budget for that, it's at P4 billion plus, Mr. President

Poe: So how are you able to determine which schools will be the recipient of it initially?

Aquino: These are all the schools, Mr President.

Poe: All schools?

Aquino: Mr President, in the previous problem that schools have is the internet connection, only one fourth of our schools have internet connection. During our hearings, DICT, DOST and the telcos have committed to increase this to 50% in a year's time. It makes the world of difference if your audio visual is connected to the internet or not. If they are connected to the internet, they have...access to the best learning materials from all over the world...This internet connection is very important, Mr President, and DepEd does have budget for that as well, unfortunately, it's the infrastructure that we have that cannot support enough internet connections, Mr President.

Poe: Well, of course electricity is also an issue in some places, I'd like to know if in highly urbanized centers, we still have schools that are off the grid?

Aquino: About 5%, Mr President, or about 8,000 schools.

Poe: In urban centers? I mean, I can understand in far flung areas but...

Aquino: We have P300 million in the budget, Mr. President to provide energy solutions to these off grid schools.

Poe: So that will include alternative sources of energy that the grid cannot reach. This will be a little bit different...We just received your letter, I think today or yesterday, indicating why you cannot move your calendar a little bit earlier for the Christmas break. I realized that there are a lot of adjustments that need to be made. But on the other hand, we all agreed that it is a national emergency--the gridlock especially in urbanized centers--I'm just wondering if the DepEd really lacks the flexibility to be able to adjust to situations like this. I know that the school calendar will be affected, I know that with climate change, it can get really hot in the classrooms but isn't there a solution, of possibly doing something about it. Maybe not this school year because I understand we're pressed for time but for the school calendar of 2017 and 2018, taking into account that every year, the month of December can be quite chaotic, if perhaps the good sponsor would be able to discuss a possible earlier Christmas break for the coming school year.

Aquino: Mr President, DepEd will endeavor to study that proposal. Unfortunately for this year, they lack the flexibility to move the school calendar because it would affect all the schools and all the teachers, and the students as well. So it is not possible for this year, but they will try to study this proposal for next year.

Poe: I think we have ample time for next year. I mean, I can totally sympathize with this, because in as much as we'd like to grant all the immediate solution and emergency powers, for example, we are also restrained by many other factors just to ensure that everything is running smoothly and that it won't further inconvenience also our teachers and our students...Now the president mentioned that the teachers will be getting...That all public school teachers will receive double their Christmas bonus, this will include their performance-based bonus, year-end bonus, and cash gift. So I would like to know if this has been budgeted during the last budget, or is there a source of funding to be able to fulfill this and will you actually be able to fulfill this.

Aquino: Mr. President, the bonus will not come from the DepEd budget but it will come from the MPBF (Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund). The performance-based bonus from all agencies will not be coming from their own agency budget it will come from the MPBF.

Poe: So the performance based-bonus is the same as the Christmas Bonus?

Aquino: No, Mr President.

Poe: So when you say double the Christmas bonus, that includes the performance-based bonus.

Aquino: No, Mr. President our understanding is that it is a separate item, Mr. President.

Poe: I know, it was mentioned, unless I am quoting the President wrong. Did he say it was double the Christmas bonus?

Aquino: Mr. President, there is a performance-based bonus which is separate, and there is a 13th and 14th month pay which is considered a Christmas bonus.

Poe: So this has been ongoing even in the past school year?

Aquino: The 14th month pay is just for this year Mr. President...

Poe: ...Para malinawan lang, ang ating mga teachers ay magkakaroon ng 13th at 14th month pay at magkakaroon ng performance-based bonus itong taon na ito?

Aquino: Yung bago po diyan yung 14th month pay.

Poe: Ok. I'm glad that that was clarified. Now, it was also mentioned that the ROTC - I forgot exactly which department recommended - that the ROTC be reinstated.

Aquino: That's CHED, Mr. President...I don't think they have recommended it Mr. President, but it is something for them to tackle.

Poe: So this is for higher education? But not for high school?

Aquino: Well, Mr. President there are news reports of individuals and groups that are pushing for senior high school to have a form of ROTC but the traditional ROTC is really meant for tertiary level institutions.

Poe: That's right...I still was able to reach that time when high schools actually had a CAT Program.

Aquino: Yes, Mr. President

Poe: So is this something being deliberated on or contemplated by the Department of Education at this point?

Aquino: Mr. President there is no more CAT but there are citizenship modules that are in the curriculum of K-12.

Poe: Citizenship modules, so, perhaps also to be able to train for disasters and natural calamities. These are the things included?

Aquino: Yes, these are all included in the curriculum. I think the main difference is that the CAT and the ROTC are under the wing of the military. So Mr. President I think the debate there is if we need to require our students...if the goal is disaster management or even nationalism, if we need to have it under the ambit of the military or not. Because currently Mr. President, the current system in the tertiary level education and senior high school is not militarized but the modules are there, Mr. President .

Poe: I think that will be all Mr. President, I just want to reiterate that perhaps the DepEd will, first, submit to us their findings on the effects of the feeding program during the last school year and then second, also to come up with a possible school calendar to integrate the busy times within the year and particularly for the holidays. That's all Mr. President, Thank you, Mr. President and also to our good sponsor.

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