Senator Sonny Angara called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to expedite the procurement and release of connectivity load for its teachers, something which should have been done months earlier.
The chairman of the Committee on Finance said the budget for this purpose has been available for some time already under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) and the 2021 General Appropriations Act as part of Congress’ response to the requirements of teachers for educating students under a not so normal situation.
Bayanihan 2 was enacted on September 11 last year and was supposed to expire on December 19. Congress then passed Republic Act 11519 to extend the availability of appropriations under Bayanihan 2 until June 30 this year in order for the implementing agencies to catch up with the utilization of funds allocated to them.
Under Bayanihan 2, a total of P4 billion was allocated to the DepEd for the “implementation of digital infrastructures and alternative learning modalities.”
Angara said this could be a source of funding for internet connectivity for teachers since a huge part of alternative learning is now being done over the web.
While the law has been around since September of 2020, Angara noted that the DepEd has only recently obligated P2.506 billion or 62.6% of the P4 billion allocation.
However, only P32 million has been disbursed as of May 7, 2021 or a disbursement rate of 1.28%.
Angara said there are also available funds under the 2021 GAA, particularly the maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE) and cash allowances of the DepEd that could also be tapped to help the teachers with their connectivity requirements.
“We have heard that the DepEd will now be providing connectivity load to their teachers worth 30 to 35GB worth of data a month starting in June. This should be done with haste especially with the Bayanihan 2 extension expiring on June 30,” Angara said.
“Ang dami na natin nabalitaan tungkol sa mga guro na nahihirapan na sa kanilang budget dahil sila pa ang gumagastos para sa kanilang mga load. Dapat na mabigay na agad sa kanila ang load para sa data lalo na’t matagal na naman nandiyan ang budget para dito,” Angara added.
Apart from the P4 billion implementation of digital infrastructures and alternative learning modalities, Angara said the DepEd also has P300 million under Bayanihan 2 for the provision of subsidies and allowances to qualified students that has yet to be obligated.
As of May 7, 2021, the DepEd has recorded a zero percent obligation rate for this particular item.
Angara said he has asked the DepEd for a report on the utilization of the Bayanihan 2 budget, particularly on these two items that have very low obligation rates.
“Education under the COVID-19 pandemic has been very challenging to say the least. Both our teachers and students have encountered difficulties in alternative and distance learning. We should provide them with all possible assistance to cope with these challenges until face-to-face learning is once again allowed in the country,” Angara said.