Confirming effective tandem of the local government unit and the military in bringing development to far-flung areas, the Tubigon-based Engineer Support Battalion (ESB) erected another two-classroom for only P600 thousand, this time, in a high school at the heart of a forest zone in Sierra-Bullones, Bohol.
Governor Erico Aumentado and Provincial Schools Division Superintendent Elpidio Jala led Friday morning's ribbon-cutting and turn-over ceremonies for the two-classroom school building in Dusita High School, with Brigadier General Arthur Tabaquero, commander of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, as the guest of honor.
In 40 days, the 53rd Engineer Brigade under Col. Arnaldo Fernandez Jr., through the Macaas, Tubigon-based troops of the ESB under Lt. Col. Ramon Ruiz, finished the building- -already fully-painted, with toilet, plumbing, electric wiring, insulator ceiling, blackboards.
Each classroom has an area of 8X7 meters.
On behalf of the Department of Education (DepEd), Jala vowed to provide the chairs.
It was the third two-classroom school building that the ESB troops constructed this year, in a counterparting partnership with the provincial government, DepEd, and the Office of the President.
The soldiers had earlier built a two-classroom building for a public school in Batuan in March and one for Buenavista in May.
In the ceremony, Col. Arnaldo Fernandez Jr., commander of the 53rd Engineer Brigade, turned over the school building to Col. Raoul Reyes, commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade, who then turned it over to Provincial Engineer Edwin Vallejos, who turned it over to Governor Aumentado.
Then, from the governor, the symbolic key was passed on to Jala, then to Sierra-Bullones Mayor Simplicio Maestrado Jr., then to Sierra-Bullones District Coordinating Principal Juana Ismael, then to Dusita Barangay Captain Basilio Café Sr., then to Dusita High School Principal Felix Galacio Jr.
In his inspirational message, Aumentado told the school staff and students in the crowd that the provincial government intends to build more school buildings in partnership with the 53rd Engineer Brigade under the 2nd Joint School Building Program (SBP) for DepEd's "red" and black" schools, Aumentado said.
On Galacio's additional request for more buildings and the needs of schools in other towns, Aumentado told school officials that the provincial government will continue to find additional funds for the project's second cycle.
This year's budget of P21 million for the program, the figure may double to P42 million in the second cycle next year, he said.
The governor also announced that the Provincial School Board, which he chairs, will meet this week to discuss more funding to continue the counterparting strategy in implementing the school building program as instructed by DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus.
The program's implementation will sweep through all "red and black schools", he said.
For parameters purposes, the program classify schools as to "red schools"- -those with severe classroom shortage, having a classroom-to-student ratio of 1:56 or more; and "black schools" as the most deprived- -those without existing classrooms or those that make do with temporary or makeshift classrooms.
Aumentado understands that the project's low floor price proved unattractive to contractors as it barely offers any profit, considering the continuously increasing prices of construction materials.
Already paid as soldiers, the government can save on labor cost.
Aumentado also lauded the efficient leadership of Sierra-Bullones Mayor Simplicio Maestrado that introduced major changes to the municipality that he said once lagged behind in development trailblazing before the mayor's administration.
On this, the governor takes pride on having made the right decision in personally picking out Maestrado to run under his ticket in 2001 elections.
Aumentado also attributed the smooth implementation of many development projects in the province under his watch to the strong support of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In his message, Tabaquero, who had served as battalion commander of the 302nd IB of Camp Sikatuna based in Carmen for a period of time, took the opportunity to thank Aumentado for his recommendation that helped facilitate his installation as division commander of the 8th ID dubbed as Storm Troopers.
Tabaquero told the crowd that, though he is not a professional educator, he knew, as he was once a high school student, "how important it is for students to have decent classrooms".
It is in the classrooms that teachers mold students into "responsible citizens and positive contributors to progress and development of our country", and so the provincial government and the municipal government of Sierra-Bullones and the stakeholders exerted efforts to build the school building, "to highlight once more the importance of education to the youth, communities and the country," he said.
He added that right education can be achieved with the combination of decent classrooms, passionate teachers as mentors and role models of students, and diligent students.
"The school building is actually our investment on the youths. We are investing on them, because, to borrow the words of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, 'the youth is the hope of our future'," Tabaquero said.