STUDENTS of Lakan Dula High School in Manila register on July 26 for the new school year that will start on Aug. 22. — PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

THE NUMBER of enrolled students for the school year 2022-2023 has hit 13 million, the Education department said on Thursday. 

The enrollment rate for the new school year is significantly higher than that of the previous years,Michael T. Poa, spokesperson of the Department of Education (DepEd), told a televised news briefing. 

As of today, we have 13.152 million enrollees,he said. 

Mr. Poa said the turnout on the first day of enrollment alone reached 3.3 million, way higher than the turnout of 222,000 on the previous school years first enrollment day. 

It does appear from the trend that our learners are excited to go back to in-person classes,he said, noting that gaps related to access to remote learning tools might have affected the tally of enrollees in previous years. 

DepEd opened the enrollment for the new school year on July 25. It will end on Aug. 22, the first day of classes. 

The agency targets to fully implement five day of face-to-face classes by November. 

The Philippines was among the last countries to reopen schools physically after a coronavirus pandemic was declared in 2020. 

In the latter part of 2021, about 76% of schools implemented partial in-person classes, Mr. Poa said. That number gives us confidence. 

He said Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio has given explicit instructionsto DepEd regional offices to coordinate closely with the regional offices of the Department of Health for the vaccination of students. 

He said the two agencies will roll out counselling programs for the unvaccinated ones. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Poa said the agency worries about the schools that have been affected by the magnitude 7 earthquake that rocked the countrys northwestern part last week and those in the south and central areas that were damaged by a super typhoon in December 2021. 

Those are the things were a bit worried about, but again, we do have plans, we do have a strategy and were confident [that we would be able to open the classes on August 22]. 

Mr. Poa told One News Channel earlier in the day that at least 270 schools have been damaged by the major quake last week. The damage to schools has already hit P1.480 billion, he added.

I have to emphasize, that is a moving number on a daily basis, we get what we call a radar report which is a rapid assessment of the damages incurred so everyday, these numbers keep on moving,he said. I think we will have to really look at the funding requirements for all these reconstructions and rehabilitation needed for schools needed by the earthquake.

Mr. Poa said the Supreme Court ruling that increased the shares of local government units (LGUs) from national taxes hinders the national government from immediately rehabilitating schools damaged by the quake. 

He said the ruling named after former Batangas Governor Hermilando I. Mandanas devolves to LGUs the tasks of repairing and building school structures. 

That’s another obstacle that we’re facing because obviously, the LGUs, they have a lot in their hands already,he said. 

I’m not saying they won’t be doing it. All I’m saying is they do have a lot in their hands so it would be good to actually lodge the budget to put up these buildings with the primary agency concerned with education, which is [the] Department of Education. 

He said the matter will be discussed in the coming days. Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza