PASIG CITY, August 16, 2019 – Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones clarified that the reported “unutilized” textbooks are buffer stocks in case of calamities and increased enrollment. She likewise shared the initiatives of the Department to a more proactive system of delivering textbooks.

The responses to the Commission on Audit’s (COA) 2018 Annual Audit Report were presented in a meeting with the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture, attended by committee chair Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, and members Senator Pia Cayetano and Senator Nancy Binay on August 14.

The said report itself noted that “DepEd has an alarming number of undistributed instructional materials amounting to P113,708,595.00 as buffer stock from CYs 2014 up to 2017.”

“Buffer stock refers to the efforts of the Department that whenever there are natural calamities, whenever there are earthquakes, whenever books are destroyed, then we have stocks on hand,” Briones explained.

As stipulated in DepEd Order no. 46, s. 2010, or the Policies and Guidelines on the Allocation of Textbooks and Teacher’s Manuals, a buffer stock shall be provided for textbooks (TXs) and teacher’s manuals (TMs) equivalent to 10% of the projected enrollment of the school year when these will be delivered. The buffer stock shall answer for replacements for losses and/or damages of TXs, for increase in enrolment, and for meeting the requirements of newly established/created schools.

Briones cited instances when buffer stocks were sent immediately, such as when a school in Dumaguete City was burned and when there was a report about a far-flung school that did not have textbooks.

The latest inventory of DepEd’s Bureau of Learning Resources (BLR) showed that there are 137 titles, which are in mother tongue, with buffer stocks in the warehouse. By simple average, the buffer stock for each title is just close to 25,000 pieces per title. The actual inventory of buffer stock for each title ranges from 10 pieces to 179,000. Briones said that if the simple average cost per unit is taken based on the amount of P113.7 million and 3.4 million pieces, this amounts to a unit cost of only P33.34.

From 2016 to 2018, DepEd delivered 81,892,080 textbooks of various titles nationwide. The 3.4 million buffer stock cited by COA constitutes just 4.2% of the total deliveries.

As part of DepEd’s continuing efforts to make systems on textbooks more responsive, Briones approved the authority to procure the hauling and delivery of a large portion of these inventory of buffer stocks to the Division offices and to preposition them nearer to places of need as early as end of February this year. This is to also avoid logistical constraints that hampered DepEd to immediately deploy buffer stocks in times of calamities in the past.

Finally, Briones said that aside from prepositioning buffer stocks locally, DepEd will also allocate a portion of these buffer stocks for the Last Mile Schools Program.

Textbook bottlenecks
Briones likewise acknowledged that bottleneck on the provision of textbooks will require legislation to effectively be addressed.

She shared the legal note on the issue, submitted by Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan and Atty. Ma. Golda Gigi Miñoza, which stated that the combination of laws, particularly of Republic Act 8047 (Book Publishing Industry Development Act) and Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act), implementing issuances, and agency practice resulted to lengthened processes that caused major delays in the manuscript development, printing, and delivery of textbooks.

In response to these stringency, DepEd considers pushing for legislation to: “re-establish an Instructional Materials Council, to provide high-level, policy guidance to the concerned bureau on textbook standards; recover for DepEd the authority, concurrent with the private sector, to develop manuscripts of textbooks and other learning resources; specify various procurement approaches or modalities for textbooks and learning resources, including through procurement of consulting services, the current procedure under Resolution No. 01-2010, or Volume 5: Manual of Procedures for the Procurement of Manuscripts for Textbooks and Teacher’s Manuals, or the procurement of books as goods; and include an additional modality hereby DepEd is authorized to pre-select titles based on transparent standards and procedures, and procure these competitively or through alternative modes, as applicable.”

These proposals, Briones said, will be discussed at the DepEd executive committee (ExeCom) level, with inputs of other ExeCom members and their strand directors duly considered.

In a communication sent by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, requesting to be furnished with the responses and clarifications of the Department on the audit observation, he offered his support should legislation be part of the reform. DepEd also agreed to develop with him a bill that would address the textbooks bottleneck.