Department of Education: Schools in eight provinces hit by ‘Usman’ suffer P237-M damage

January 06, 2019
Leonor Briones

DAMAGE to school buildings in the eight provinces affected by Tropical Depression Usman reached around P237 million, according to the Department of Education ( DepEd).

Education Secretary Leonor Briones gave a tentative estimate of damage to school buildings in storm-affected areas. This excludes the school computers funded by the DepEd. Damage to other equipment, textbooks and furniture is about P50 million. Camarines Sur and Albay were the most affected.

Briones reported that in the situation briefing with President Duterte last Friday that 32 of the casualties in the storm were learners.

The DepEd’s 2018 Quick Response Fund (QRF) was P2 billion, and 2019 QRF is P2 billion. The P2 billion 2018 QRF was already fully allocated and spent after Ompong, with still P381.6 million unfunded repairs.

DepEd said if the P227-million Usman damage is added to the unfunded P1.4 billion Ompong damages and P840 million Rosita damages, the total QRF funds needed as of date is already P2 billion.

This already eats up DepEd’s P2 billion QRF for 2019. There is a need to allocate another P2 billion for the rest of 2019, DepEd said.

The DepEd will undertake Special Brigada Eskwela in Usman-affected areas to rehabilitate the damaged schools.

Although schools are built to withstand disasters that bring strong winds, Briones noted that it may be time to upgrade school infrastructure and prepare them for natural disasters.

"We have been watching the pattern of the damage caused by natural disasters and traditionally, this will be caused by strong typhoons, strong winds. But now we noticed that a tropical depression can unleash and trigger tragedies and destruction of even greater magnitude. This is because of floods and landslides," she explained.

Damages to roofs and windows can easily be addressed by DepEd’s new climate-resilient designs and school building funds, but bigger damage caused by floods and landslides would require additional funds and new programs for either slope protection, higher elevation of schools, and/or transfer of school sites from hazardous areas to safer ones.

However, DepEd has only funds for site titling and none for site acquisition.