Press Release
May 25, 2020

Transcript of Senator Win Gatchalian's CNN's The Source interview with Pinky Webb on GCQ, OFWs, Fontana, Meralco and education

Q: Government will decide whether Metro Manila and other high-risk areas will either number one, stay on MECQ, go down to GCQ or implement a localized lockdown. Do you think that Metro Manila is ready to go from MECQ to GCQ.


SEN WIN: For one, the sole and the only strategy that we can employ to look for the virus is through the testing but is already proven that testing is more complicated to setup than what we have been seeing in the past. Now, the capacity of our country, we can test as many as 12,000 cases per day but this is not enough considering that we have 100 million population and if we are looking at a 1% of our population to be tested, we should have approximately a 21,000-25,000 testing capacity per day so malayo pa tayo. We are only testing half of what we should be testing if we are looking at 1% of our population. Having said that, at the end of the day, it will really rest on our hands to protect ourselves. It's really up to us on how to be careful with our environment and how to be careful with what we are dealing with. In this case, the most potent weapon for now is to protect ourselves to know what we are handling, to know what we are exposed to basic practices such as wearing masks, washing our hands, avoiding crowded places are the most effective ways in preventing from being infected with the virus. The government is still putting up the testing capacity eh and it's taking some time, it's more complicated than what we expect. The most important now is to teach our constituents how to protect themselves.

Q: Since napakalayo pa natin sa 25,000 tests per day, tama ho ba na mag-shift na for example, Metro Manila ang other high-risk areas to a more relaxed status.

SEN WIN: We don't have any choice, if we will wait for 30,000, our economy cannot take it anymore. As we all know, it's taking so much time to build that testing capacity. If we wait for another month or another two months to bring it up to 30,000, I don't think our constituents can handle it anymore. Here in Valenzuela, our constituents I can see the suffering and difficulties especially in families with difficult conditions like a PWD, it's very difficult for them because they cannot go to rehabilitation programs, they cannot buy medicine. So if we will wait for the 30,000 to come on line, we don't know when would that happen. We get targets and promises almost every week and we all know that it is not happening because it's more complicated than what we thought. We just have to be very cautious. I am looking at a slow transition to GCQ by June 1. I think the movement to MECQ is a good move because it is a slow transition to GCQ. I can see here in Valenzuela. In MECQ, we gave our constituents some form of adjustments so moving from MECQ to GCQ is another small increment for them they'll get used to. In other words, our constituents cannot wait anymore for the testing capacity to ramp up because economically, in terms of livelihood, it is very difficult for them.


Q: There are 27,000 OFWs here in the Philippines right now at meron pa pong parating na 47,000 in the months of May and June. At sabi ni General Galvez, this could pose a problem. Are you alarmed by this Sir? Wala nang choice ang mga kababayan natin kundi umuwi dahil una, nawalan na ho sila ng trabaho.

SEN WIN: Tama ka. it is quite alarming. I'll just share with you our experience here in Valenzuela. We now work with OWWA to bring Valenzuela OFWs here in our isolation in Valenzuela. Since we are doing our own mass testing, we test them because we can get the results in less than 48 hours and we found out that a lot of our OFWs are exposed. We have approximately a dozen of OFWs who are exposed to COVID. They were positive and we have to bring them to our quarantine or isolation facilities. Dahil high-risk sila, there is a big possibility that positive sila. We cannot just let them go to our communities because they will infect others. It is important that the government will be ready in terms of accepting all of these OFWs. The most important there is to get the results as fast as we can and bring them back to their homes because they want to be with their families and they want to support themselves and their families. Bu they cannot be release to the community without testing. This is where the problem comes in. I really thank DFA for facilitating the repatriation here to the Philippines but after coming back home, their testing becomes a problem because of the backlog. Some of them have been there for 45 days already.


Q: Are you alarmed with what you saw, there was a medical facility there and the Fontanas are saying na hindi kanila yun. Nag-transfer na daw ang villa na yun to another company and yet when the police raided that, they saw dextrose, beds, rapid test kits, could something like that even operate inside Fontana?

SEN WIN: It is quite very shocking and ang nakakatakot diyan ay ang medical waste. The first thing that jumped to my mind is where do they throw the medical waste? Because the medical waste are highly regulated and restricted. You cannot just open up a hospital, treat and throw all the usual household disposal system. You're gonna contaminate a lot of people and I don't buy the statement of Fontana na hindi nila alam. That's the most convenient way out eh because Fontana is a hotel. They should know what's happening in their facility that's why I call on the government, NBI, PNP to file charges against the owners of Fontana and CDC to look into revoking the lease contract of Fontana because Fontana is definitely operating in a very illegal manner. Fontana being a lessee of Clark, they should immediately terminate the contract because we don't like business people like this operating in our country. It is really shocking to me. They are treating COVID-19 patients and these patients are very infectious, they can infect communities and they are treating patients without government approval.


Q: Alright Senator Win Gatchalian let's talk about Meralco yung pong reklamo dito, ilang Linggo na rin po. I know last Friday you had a joint committee hearing on this, just to be clear, kailangan ba naming bayaran yung bill natin sa Meralco noong May

SEN WIN: If you are in the Meralco franchise, you don't have to pay yet because during the, and I would like to thank the ERC, the Energy Regulatory Commission for being very firm with what to do with this bill shock. Tawag ko nga dito heart attack bill because everyone was surprised, even here, dito sa amin sa Valenzuela nagulat ako sa bill ko its five-fold my original monthly payments. Hindi ho kailangan bayaran, if you are in the Meralco franchise you have to wait for the new and separate bill that Meralco will issue because it was agreed in the committee hearing that Meralco will issue a separate billing statement for that period covered by the ECQ. Medyo talagang kakaiba kasi the ECQ in effect, gave the consumers a grace period because they cannot read the meters, we had to do averaging for that time period. Doon naguguluhan yung tao because how did you average and pano kung may kulang or may sobra? Where did you compute that? And when do you pay? So Meralco will be issuing a separate bill for that particular period so that it will be very clear. The most important part here is to be transparent. Hindi nga namin naiintidihan, mga legislators and ng mga government officials, what more our consumers. So we told them they have to be very transparent and easy to understand

Q: So hindi niyo po babayaran yung times five na electricity bill ninyo?

SEN WIN: Oo kasi walang basis, how can I pay kung di natin alam kung ano yung basis. Times five of your original bill is quite unusual but most importantly here is for us consumers to understand what we are paying. Dapat alam natin yan to the last kilowatt-hour at yun ang nagkukulang because di nila alam kung paano kinompute yun.

Q: Syempre Senator unprecedent times but we read somewhere that during that hearing, Meralco said they only read 1% yung metro ng 1% of the households? Totoo po ba yun? So if that is true, how could they have billed us, the 99%, the bill that we got now if only 1% was read sa mga metro ng households?

SEN WIN: Under the ERC advisory, because of this pandemic our meter readers, kasi dito satin ang meter reader natin mano-mano pa, house to house, they cannot go out because nga they are under lockdown and because of that physical constraint Meralco and other utilities for this matter were allowed to do averaging. So for example if your bill is May, ia-average mo sila February, March, April and billing sa May. Kung may sobra o kulang then they will adjust in June. But you don't have to pay right away in June. The ERC advisory has stated that you can pay in four equal installments starting June. So ganun in simple terms, the computation and the advisory of ERC. But for example in my case, what I didn't understand in my bill, bakit yung May, five times my usual payment due during March and April? Obviously may kulang in the averaging. I want to see kung saan nagkulang at per kilowatt-hour basis kung saan ako nagkulang.

Q: Tama Sir, averaging the last three months pwede naman po talagang tumaas dahil summer months na pero yung times five or even times 2.3 nagulat din po ako doon maybe because it could be an increase of 0.5 at most. So alright, don't pay your Meralco bills right now because they will give us a new one, that is for everyone yun po sa Meralco. Alright, education?

SEN WIN: Let me just clarify, don't pay your Meralco bill until Meralco issues the new and clear billing. I'm not saying don't pay your Meralco bill period because malulugi naman yung ating utility and this is what we owe our utility. So magi-issue sila ng bagong billing, more transparent, easy to read and the basic principle here, you have to know what you are paying for. This is what we instructed Meralco and this is what the regulator, ERC also instructed Meralco to do and all utilities dahil meron tayong 100 plus utilities nationwide.


Q: Pay the next bill. Alright education, DepEd already said that classes will open on August 24, Senator Win is this something na sinusuportahan ninyo dahil kapag tinignan natin yung netizens natin, meron talagang magulang na ayaw papasukin ang kanilang mga anak dahil sa takot na mahawa ng covid Sir?

SEN WIN: I'll put my other hat on from the Chairman of the Energy Committee to Chairman of the Basic Education Committee. August 24 is still three months away from now. So meron pa tayong time to evaluate the situation. It doesn't mean kung August 24, yun na because the situation is changing so fast and since the corona virus is a new virus, the situation on the ground, the policies of government is changing so fast but yung pinakamahalaga dito, government will not allow our students, teachers and parents to be at risk. If we find out that its very risky for students, parents and teachers to go to school then we can still move the class opening but what we want the government to do is to start implementing what we call the new normal in schools, meaning making sure our schools are safe. Number two is to make our curriculum so that we can incorporate hybrid learning, blended learning, online learning, depending on your school situation and pursue educating our children. Even in the light of covid and this is happening in many countries, countries are adjusting, naga-adjust tayo pano tayo magturo, naghahanap tayo ng ways and the perfect strategy to teach our children and to continue to learn because our children need to learn. Hindi ho sila pwedeng nasa bahay lang at games at nannood ng TV. They need to learn and in this time of covid, kung hindi tayo mag-aaral, if we will not do anything, kawawa yung mga mahihirap nating estudyante sila yung maiiwanan. I noticed in private schools, especially the affluent ones, they have online learning. they can use Google Suites and other online mechanism to teach but it's not present in our public schools, our public schools need to be tweaked a bit so that they can continue to teach and those tweaking comes in the form of hybrid learning. Ano ba ito? Pwede tayong gumamit ng tv, radio at homeworks para magturo. in other words, we will not allow students, teachers and parents to be at risk and endangered on August 24 and we will adjust accordingly if the situation will not improve.

Q: So it's subject to review because there are two Congressmen right now who are already against the opening of classes on August 24. In fact, si Congressman Aurelio Gonzales filed a Resolution, House Resolution 876, suspending classes until and unless a vaccine against COVID-19 is discovered. What your thoughts about that Sir?

SEN WIN: I think that's anti-poor because if we suspend classes, yung mga mayayaman mag-aaral yan yung mga nasa IS, yung mga nasa british school, makakapag-aral yan kasi they're all online. Pero yung mga public school natin they will be stuck at home and what we want is for the government to innovate. The covid cannot stop innovation, we can continue to innovate and in fact that is what DepEd is doing, in fact they are innovating, they are adjusting to the situation and they can teach, we have tv, we radio, we can send home works through other means, we can continue to teach. By postponing classes and not doing anything will leave our poor students left behind. Mapagiiwanan talaga sila, mababa na ang yung grades natin sa PISA, maiiwanan pa sila. by the time we restart school, it will be too late for some of them. So it's a bad idea to completely postpone school. We can still continue to teach using innovative methods and this is using tv, radio and using other forms.

Q: There's also a call for education officials to help our teachers, especially the teachers from private schools who have not been getting any salary in the past two months, wala po silang trabaho. No work, no pay how can your committee help them? Will you look into this Sir?

SEN WIN: That's a very good question and in fact in the DOF briefing by acting NEDA Secretary Karl Chua, education is the fourth most battered industry among the hundreds of industries. This is surrounding private schools so one of the action plans that we are employing is to lobby very hard to include private schools in the Small Business Wage Subsidy of the government and expanding other mechanisms for example the grants in aids for the private schools so that the teachers will directly get some grants and some aid in times of covid. Definitely the private schools is being battered by this pandemic and it is recognized by NEDA and because of that we need to act and two of the mechanisms that we are thinking is to include them in the Small Business Wage Subsidy and the other one is to give direct subsidies to our teachers and non-teaching staff of course dahil malaki rin yung ating non-teaching personnel.

Q: Senator Sherwin Win Gatchalian maraming salamat ho sainyo, take care.

SEN WIN: Thank you Pinky, stay safe.

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