Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto on Tuesday vouched for more funds for the Department of Education’s “pedals and paddles” project, in which the agency will bankroll the purchase of “small boats, motorized boats, and bicycles,” Recto said.
In its 2016 budget briefer, the DepEd said it would spend up to P10,000 for a small boat that can accommodate three to five kids and up to P50,000 for a motorized banca that can ferry 15 to 20. It would also spend up to P3,000 for a refurbished bicycle, Recto said, quoting the DepEd proposal.
Both programs are lodged under the agency’s “last-mile learners” initiatives which also target schools in hard-to-reach areas and those not connected to energy grids.
Recto welcomed DepEd’s “novel idea as an effective deterrent to school absenteeism brought about by transportation barriers.”
He said this would boost school attendance and reduce drop-out rates since the high cost of fares and lack of transportation are the leading causes of the students’ absences.
“There was one survey which tagged high transportation and long commutes as reasons for fluctuating school attendance and triggers for dropping out,” Recto said.
“In the case of riverine communities where waterways serve as highways, the dearth of boats prevent children from attending school regularly,” he added.
He noted that the use of these bikes and bancas must be linked to school attendance. If you ride, you must do well in school. This is another form of CCT—Conditional Communal Transport,” he added.
In seeking for additonal fundings, Recto said if the allocation for this program will be taken from the department’s proposed budget of P445 million for Alternative Learning Systems, then clearly it won’t be enough.”
He said any budgetary augmentation will allow DepEd to match the equity provided by its NGO partners.
In the case of boats, DepEd’s collaborator is the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation while the Bikes for the Philippines is its partner bike program.
With the help of these “admirable NGOs,” the “Pedals and Paddles Project” aims to provide 35,734 bikes and 1,216 boats to learners in far-flung and hard-to-reach areas.
“I think we should double the target at the very least. Certainly, we can find budget space to fund the additional acquisitions,” he said.
DepEd’s proposed 2016 outlay is P411.4 billion, of which P59.1 billion is under Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses and P99 billion under Capital Outlays.
“Or we can cut fat in other agencies, or rechannel funding for slow-moving and unimportant projects to these. These are purchases, off-the-shelf in the case of bikes, so there are no procurement kinks that will lead to underspending,” Recto said.