By Mimaropa France and Sugar Hicap
BINANGONAN, Rizal-Fisherfolk members of the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in a consultation last week in Binangonan, Rizal said it would be hard for them to send their kids back to school this year because of increasing costs of textbooks, notebooks and other school materials compared to their daily income which was further reduced from a low of P 150 per day to rock bottom level of P 75 per day.
But Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz said the increasing cost of elementary education even if there is no tuition fee is just a tip of an iceberg.
“Even if there is no tuition fee, the fisherfolk parents are financially handicapped to be able to buy these school materials for their two-three elementary students. How can a fisherfolk family with average members of 5 to 6 with three elementary kids wanting to go back to school this year would be able to afford the schooling of their children given the rising cost of elementary education nowadays? Some have decided to send only one of their three kids to school, while others said it they would look for loan to be able to send back at least two if not all their kids to school,” he said.
Corpuz interviewed a fishing family in Barangay Ticulio, Talim Island in Cardona, Rizal. The head of the family, a fisherman is currently earning between P 75 to P 100 day from his share in daily fish capture in Laguna Lake. He has two kids going to school this year.
The kids will use at least 10 notebooks each. The price of each notebook is P 10 per notebook and therefore he would spend P 100 per kid or P 200 for two kids. Next to be budgeted is the need for school uniforms and bags that would cost him P 1,000 peso each or P 2,000. Those alone would cost him P 2,200 and he has to work 30 days for him to be able to buy the immediate needs of his returning students this school year.
The Pamalakaya information chief said even if these fishermen in Laguna Lake could still send their kids to elementary schools in and out Talim Island, the usual problems of shortages of classrooms, facilities, teachers and textbooks still decide if they could be accommodated given to the
Corpuz who have visited several classrooms in mainland Binangonan and Talim Island said the average students each elementary schools could accommodate is between 100-150 students since there are only a few number of class rooms ranging from 5-15 class rooms per elementary school.
“The schools and its’ rooms are clean. Thank you to the wonderful work of school officials and their teachers. But the schools lack facilities and the rooms are not enough to accommodate the growing number of children who should avail elementary schooling. Some children ages 10 -15 have yet to finish elementary due to a number of reasons like shortages of rooms, teachers and textbooks and less livelihood and economic opportunities of their fisher parents,” Corpuz lamented.
“We are not asking for a miracle. What are asking is for the national and local governments to prioritize basic education to the people especially in those poor communities and majority of those communities according to government census are found in fishing villages all over the country. The problem is the government since time immemorial has abandoned state responsibility to education and has regarded learning as business for profiteering and not an paramount concern for the achievement and realization of social service and social justice,” said Pamalakaya.
According to the Department of Education (DepEd) out of 100 students, only 66 will finish elementary education. Of the 66, 42 will finish high school and 25 of them will go to college. But Pamalakaya said that statistics will continue to slide down as education problems continue and get worse as years pass by.
Pamalakaya agreed with the observations raised by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party list that the entire education system in the country is in deep crisis. Citing the same date provided by ACT Teachers Party list, the militant group said the numbers of out of school children ages 6-15 years old were approximately 1.87 million; this grew to 3.3 million in 2007. Last year, DepEd announced there were 5.6 million out of school children or about 2.3 million increase from 2007.
Independent estimates revealed the government has to earmark an additional P 91 billion to fill up the gaps in educational resources. “We hope the next administration will prioritize education and junk the policy of paying onerous debts to foreign and domestic creditors,” said Pamalakaya.
Earlier, Pamalakaya challenged the leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to radically overturn the decision of the 14th Congress to allot P 726.63 billion for debt servicing this year and allot more funds to education and social services.
“We strongly recommend to the incoming Yellow Republic in Malacanang to scrap the P 726 billion budget for debt servicing earmarked by his predecessor President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the inglorious money market bastards and corporate financial gangsters of International Monetary Fund and World Bank,” the group said.
Pamalakaya advised Aquino to issue a marching order to Senate and the House of Representatives to suspend debt payment this year and instead allocate more funds to education, social services, production and job generation activities.
The militant group said Aquino can put to task the 23 senators of the Philippine Senate and the 270 members of the House of Representatives to review the approved 2010 national budget, and in aid of legislation passed a joint resolution suspending debt payment for 2010.
Pamalakaya said the next thing Mr.Aquino should do is to call Congress to amend if not repeal the automatic 40 percent appropriation to debt servicing as enshrined in the General Appropriations Act to empower Congress and the Office of the President to pursue the budget in accordance with public interest and opposed to the financial interest of foreign creditors and big financial groups here and abroad.
The militant group also learned the Philippine government is posed to allocate some P 829.41 B for debt servicing, which is P 102.78 B or 13.7 percent higher from this year budget for debt payment. Pamalakaya said of the P 829-B debt budget set aside for next year’s debt servicing program, P 367.28 B will go to interest payment, P 40.55 billion higher compared to 2010’s P 326.73 B.
The Bureau of Treasury said principal payment will reach P462.13 billion next year, 15.6 percent above the current year’s allocation of P399.9 billion. Of the total debt, treasury officials said P1.954 trillion was loaned from foreign creditors while P2.403 trillion was sourced from domestic creditors.
On the other hand, the Department of Finance (DoF) said the country’s total debt for 2010 would reach P4.83 trillion, higher than the previous forecast of P4.723 trillion. #