Opposition Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, Sen. Juan Eugenio Hernandez Mayoral told Efe on Thursday that the English-only schooling that the administration of pro-statehood Gov. Luis Fortuño wants to implement could reduce the knowledge of Spanish in Puerto Rico.

Hernandez Mayoral said that he is in favor of bilingualism and the teaching of English on the Caribbean island, which is a U.S. commonwealth, but he added that the current government's alleged plan for all subjects to be taught in English in Puerto Rico's public schools will be to the detriment of the knowledge of correct Spanish.

He said that in the hypothetical case that only English is used in the public schools - except in Spanish language classes - Puerto Rican children would end up with "gaps" in their knowledge of Spanish.

Hernandez Mayoral said that he had no specific details about the government's plans and he was speaking on the basis of a report that appeared on Wednesday in the San Juan daily El Vocero about bilingual teaching in Puerto Rico.

The newspaper said that starting next week the island's Department of Education will begin bilingual education training for 100 teachers, parents and students in accord with the "bilingual Education Community for the 21st Century" project.

The daily added that the assistant secretary of academic affairs in the education department, Grisel Muñoz, explained that educators in 31 schools on the island will be trained in the methodology of teaching and bilingual methodology.

The plan, El Vocero said, is being funded with $9 million and is designed to convert several schools into islands of bilingualism.

Classes will begin being taught in English in sciences, math and physical education and will reach around 4,000 students, according to the newspaper.

Hernandez Mayoral said that the initiative comes in response to Fortuño's wish to have Puerto Rico become a U.S. state and after he was informed by members of the U.S. Congress that that goal will only be possible if English is fully established on the island.

The senator said that Fortuño's idea in the long run is for English to be the language spoken in government agencies on an island where - he said - just 30 percent of the public speaks it correctly and well.

The governor said in his latest message from the legislature to the public on April 24 that he wants Puerto Ricans with fewer resources to have access to better knowledge of English as a way to give them better job prospects.

The governor announced that measures will be taken to establish English more widely in the public education system, but he gave no concrete details about the plan. EFE