Some P550 billion is needed to achieve the basic health standards in the Philippines education sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday.
"Kung gagawin naming universal ang computation, the need will be more than what we have for 2020 budget, meaning it might be beyond P500 billion," Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said in a Senate hearing.
"'Kung walang limitation, ibig sabihin we will provide everything, we came up with P550 billion. But of course that's so impossible. Even the government is looking for a financing for the Bayanihan fund," she said.
The whole amount would cover hygiene kits for one million teachers and 22 million students as well as educational modules that may be used for home-based learning, among other requirements, the education official said.
DepEd Undersecretary Toni Umali added that this estimate is quite big because it includes budget for water supply and facilities to ensure hand hygiene in schools.
Mass testing, however, is not included in this rough computation, according to Sevilla.
Nonetheless, the DepEd officials underscored that while the framework for minimum health standards in education sector has already been laid out, this figure is still subject to change to be more realistic and will be finalized using more specific cost parameters in the coming days.
Sevilla also mentioned that around P8.2 billion budget of DepEd has already been realigned to support the COVID-19 response by virtue of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
"Nakuhanan na po kami ng P8.2 billion for the Bayanihan law and the P5 billion was from our last mile schoool program," she said.
Sevilla added that she wrote a letter to the Department of Budget and Management to put on hold other budget cuts that will be made.
"I was also informed that there will be batch 2, however, I officially sent a letter to DBM, requesting the holding of the said withdrawal of funds pending the finalization of our Learning Continuity Plan... all the things that we are discussing has an implication to costing," Sevilla said
The DepEd projects over 27 million basic education learners and around 1.2 million teachers and personnel in public and private schools in the incoming school year which will start on August 24.
The specific learning modalities under the Learning Continuity Plan that will be employed by students and teachers will depend on the discretion of the respective schools division in their areas, it said.
Face-to-face learning will only be allowed in areas with "very low risks" to COVID-19 transmission and following the precautionary guidelines set by government authorities. —LBG, GMA News