MANILA – Malacañang will look into the possibility of asking Congress for an additional budget for the Department of Education (DepEd), as schools are set to resume and adopt distance learning through online platforms amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) health crisis.
“Kung kinakailangan po ng extra budget, hihingi po tayo (If there is a need for an extra budget, we will ask for it),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser on Tuesday.
Roque explained that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Republic Act 11469 does not have a provision that provides extra funding for the DepEd.
He said the government is currently realigning funds in the existing PHP4.1 trillion budget for 2020.
However, he said a supplemental budget can only be requested once the Department of Finance identifies new sources of revenue.
“Titingnan po natin kung kinakailangan, hahanap tayo ng source of pondo kasi hindi naman pupuwedeng magkaroon ng supplemental budget na walang source of revenue na pagkukuhanan (We will see if it is necessary, we’ll look for sources of funds because we can’t have a supplemental budget without a source of revenue),” he said.
Meanwhile, Roque assured teacher groups who are pushing to move the school opening that expanded targeted testing will be conducted nationwide to get a clear picture of Covid-10 infections in the country.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers earlier called on the government to reconsider the school opening, saying they would not resume classes unless mass testing is carried out.
The DepEd has set the opening of the school year 2020-2021 on August 24 while the end of the school year will be on April 30, 2021.
Roque said there is still a chance for the school opening to change depending on the country’s rate of infection.
“Flexible naman po tayo eh. Although we have said that August 24 is the date of school opening, that assumes na at least GCQ na po ang sitwasyon ‘no. Kung talagang come August 24 ay may mga lugar pa rin na under MECQ or bumalik sa ECQ, na mayroon eh baka wala pa rin pong klase iyan (We’re flexible. Although we have said that August 24 is the date of school reopening, that assumes that most areas are under general community quarantine. If come August 24 there are still areas under modified enhanced community quarantine or areas that returned to enhanced community quarantine, we might still not resume classes),” he said.
Roque said the health and safety of the youth remains one of the government’s primary concerns.
On Monday, Roque said Congress may amend the law to move the schedule of the opening of classes.
Under Republic Act 7977, also known as “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) days to not more than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days,” the “school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier filed a bill seeking to allow the opening of classes in September or any month to give the DepEd more time to adapt to the “new normal”.
Senate Bill 1438 will amend RA 7977 and serve as the enabling law for the execution of the April 24 recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to move the class opening to September. (ia/PNA)