The Senate has emphasized the need to address classroom shortage specially in priority public high and elementary schools, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said, as it hailed a group of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Beirut, Lebanon for their contributions in addressing the classroom shortage.

Franklin Drilon, the Senate president and once labor and employment secretary, in his keynote speech at the inauguration of another two classrooms completed under the DOLE’s Classroom Galing sa Mamamayang Filipino Abroad (CGMA) program together with eight other classrooms built from his funds and the President’s Social Fund in Dasmariñas, Cavite, emphasized the adage that “Education is the Great Equalizer,” saying, “I am a proud product of the country’s public school system.”

Drilon said these efforts showed that the construction of direly needed classrooms nationwide can be achieved in a quality, cost-efficient manner that boost human resources development entirely free from graft and corruption. He expressed willingness to commit more to the endeavor to push back classroom shortage in the Philippines.

The occasion, which saw the turnover of the two new CGMA classrooms to the remote Bagong Barrio Elementary School in Dasmariñas, was also a confluence of the various sectors and donors who have come together to help the government address classroom shortage in priority schools.

Among those who graced the occasion were Mr. Leo Van Vogel, vice president for Asia of the World Council of Peoples of the United Nations (WCPUN) which has donated 25 classrooms under the CGMA program, Filipino taipan Lucio Tan, Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines (FFCCCII) president Robin Y. Sy, the DOLE-CGMA Project Management Team led by Project Manager Elena L. Calingasan and Project Team Head retired Ambassador Fortunato Oblena, Cavite Governor Ayong Maliksi, Dasmariñas Mayor Pidi Barzaga, and school officials, teachers, and pupils.

Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas had initiated the CGMA program in 2003 to help address classroom shortages in priority schools in partnership with the Departments of Education (DepEd), and Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the FFCCCII. The CGMA program is distinct for being chosen by the OFWs, Filipino communities overseas, the employers of OFWs, and philanthropic organizations, to participate in, and contribute to the development of the Filipino human resources.

The two CGMA classrooms inaugurated in Cavite were each donated by the Malaysia-based WCPUN and its investment arm, the PIPS/Isabel L. Amina Foundation, and a Beirut, Lebanon based OFW association called the Pilipino Mobilizers Community (PMC). These two classrooms comprised, along with the eight other new classrooms (or a total of 10), the 2,990th to 3,000th units so far completed by the FFCCCII in 40 years. The eight others were made possible by the President’s Social Fund (2), Senator Drilon’s School Building Project (2), the FFCCCII (2), and the SM Prime Holdings (2).

As of February 2005, a period spanning less than two years since it started in June 2003, the CGMA project has completed the construction of 143 classrooms (or an average of more than six per month), while 155 others are in various stages of construction, for a total of 298 classrooms in 12 regions including the National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the Caraga Region, and ARMM.

The retired Ambassador Oblena who now devotes his efforts with the CGMA endeavor indicated that the 143 CGMA classrooms so far completed are now benefiting an estimated 8,580 Filipino school children and students via “better and comfortable surroundings.” Their construction also resulted in the employment of some 2,384 workers so far.

At the same time, Oblena announced that the CGMA Program, in cooperation with the FFCCCII, shall “soon begin the construction of new classrooms for some of the typhoon-damaged schools in Infanta, Quezon donated by the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), the PIPS/Isabel L. Amina Foundation c/o Mr. Van Vogel, and the Filipino Associations in Canada and the United States.”

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