Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) — The ₱389-million budget for the controversial Manila Bay “white sand” project would have been a huge help for the government to buy gadgets for students and teachers shifting to distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said Monday.
Briones made the statement during the government’s Laging Handa media briefing when asked how the Education Department could use the money if it was allocated to the agency.
“Sigurado ako malaking bahagi nyan mapupunta sa pangangailangan ng gadgets. Kasi we have more than 3,000 last mile schools na walang connectivity, medyo isolated sila,” Briones explained.
[Translation: I’m sure a chunk of that would have been allocated to the need for gadgets. Because we have more than 3,000 last mile schools without connectivity, and they are a bit isolated.]
She said part of the budget can also be used to fund the printing of more self-learning materials.
Some teachers groups have been complaining about the DepEd’s failure to provide laptops or tablets needed for distance learning.
Education officials earlier admitted that the agency’s budget is not enough to cover this. Providing each of the 800,000 public school teachers with a laptop will cost around ₱27 billion, they said.
The DepEd has been relying on local governments and the private sector to provide gadgets to students and teachers with no computer and internet access.
“Pero hindi kami nakiki-alam sa budget nang may budget. Kung ano ang inallocate samin ng Presidente at ng Department of Budget, ‘yun ang pinagkakasya namin,” Briones said.
[Translation: However, we don’t meddle with those who have their own budgets. We just make do with the budget allocated to us by the President and the Department of Budget.]
The overlaying of white sand made of refined dolomite rocks on the shore of Manila Bay in Roxas Boulevard has drawn flak from different environment groups, who said it is entirely for “aesthetic” purposes.
However, the Environment Department said the project has been studied thoroughly, adding that its budget was not spent solely on the dolomite rocks.
Over 24 million basic education students have so far enrolled for the school year. Majority at 22.2 million are going to public schools.