Press Release
March 1, 2021

P.S. Res. No. 668 Recommending the Immediate Launch of Pilot Testing of Localized Limited Face-to-Face Classes
Delivered by the Honorable Win Gatchalian, Senator of the 18th Congress:

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I bid you good afternoon.

I take the floor this afternoon in hopes of enlisting your support for the adoption of this Proposed Senate Resolution, which expresses the sense of this esteemed body in recommending that the Department of Education immediately launch its Pilot Testing Program to test the waters for the implementation of localized limited face-to-face classes. The necessity of launching the face-to- face pilot test became clear after four in-depth hearings conducted by the Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the basic education system under Proposed Senate Resolution No. 391.

An alarming revelation reported by UNICEF is that the Philippines is only one of 14 countries worldwide and the only nation in the East Asia and Pacific region whose schools have stayed continuously closed since the pandemic hit full swing in March 2020. This, despite the fact that the Philippines is nowhere near the bottom 14 worldwide in terms of COVID-19 pandemic response and overall situation on the ground in terms of infections. In fact, the large majority of areas in the Philippines are already under the most lenient MGCQ or New Normal classification. There are even 433 municipalities and 3 cities that have been declared COVID-free.

The inescapable conclusion drawn from the data is that as many as 25 million Filipino learners enrolled in the basic education system are being left behind by their learner peers throughout the region and across the world. After all, the preliminary assessment of the committee is that blended learning under the Basic Education- Learning Continuity Program of the DepEd has failed to provide a stable and passable level of educational quality, despite the best efforts of our students, teachers, and parents during these unprecedented times. Thus, keeping Filipino learners up to par with international standards of academic achievement and personal development would require the gradual reimplementation of face-to- face classes in relatively low-risk COVID areas pursuant to stringent public health, hygiene, and sanitary policies and protocols.

I would like to underline the fact that this resolution does not seek to railroad the return of face-to-face classes nationwide. What is sought here is to empower DepEd - in cooperation with LGUs, parents and guardians, and local communities as a whole - to begin a methodical process of gathering evidence on the ground to guide its framework for the safe reopening of schools using a risk-based assessment to identify, analyze and reduce the risks affecting each school. This is the critical first step towards gradually reopening schools in localities which are prepared to minimize public health risks and keep our children, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders safe and secure from COVID-19 infection. Significantly, the face-to-face pilot test would also lay the groundwork for other essential services related to the basic education system, such as the resumption of school feeding programs and the speedy implementation of a COVID-19 vaccination drive for the benefit of teachers and other stakeholders susceptible to adult-to-adult transmission.

Mr. President, we cannot allow Filipino learners to be left behind any longer. On the long and harrowing road toward ending the perennial education crisis in our country, the implementation and normalization of face-to-face education in the New Normal is a pivotal milestone that can only be achieved if we are willing to take the first brave step of launching the pilot testing of localized limited face-to-face classes. Therefore, I respectfully urge the body to join Senators Binay, Pangilinan, Poe, Cayetano, Villanueva, Angara, and yours truly in supporting the adoption of the proposed Senate resolution.

Thank you, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, for allowing me to sponsor this measure.

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