Press Release
March 8, 2021

ANC Headstart Interview of Sen. Win Gatchalian with Karen Davila on pilot testing of face-to-face classes, Price Ceiling and Bayanihan 3

Q: All right, now. Well, Cabinet Secretary Karlo nograles also reconfirmed this morning that it looks like the President will only allow limited face to face classes, even in the area of zero COVID, or no COVID, if 2 million Filipinos have been inoculated.

SEN. WIN: The Senate approved a resolution that is recommending a pilot testing in very low risk areas or zero COVID areas, and this pilot testing Karen will enable government to gather evidence to learn from these pilot testing schools, and to help government navigate through COVID once we open face to face classes so the process of our recommendation is to launch a pilot testing in 1000 or less schools, the schools have been identified ready by that DepEd, and after the pilot testing, then we can study very carefully on how to reopen schools on the later on date.

Q: But in terms of limited face to face. Do you believe that it should still push through? even before that 2 million mark?

SEN. WIN: Karen there's a different story right now. I've been observing the surge in COVID, this past few weeks and definitely the new variant is here in the urban areas. And that's why I don't subscribe to opening face to face classes in urban areas, especially in Metro Manila where we saw, almost half of the new COVID cases are here in Metro Manila, but still we still have about 432 municipalities, which have zero COVID, and some of the municipality has never experienced COVID ever since the lockdown. So in other words we should study carefully those areas, whether we can start a pilot testing, again we're not subscribing to a full blown opening of school what we are advocating is just pilot testing of 1000 or fewer schools,

Q: 1000, or fewer schools or I thought 200 pilot schools hindi po yun Senator?

SEN. WIN: Actually DepEd has identified 1065 schools nationwide. But we advocated and we recommended to DepEd to study this very carefully. It doesn't have to be 1065, it can be 200. What we want is to learn from those pilot schools if 200 is the number that is fit to study the pilot testing, then we can do that but what's important is to have the experience in slowly reopening schools through pilot testing.

Q: Okay. So, is it right that you are still subscribing, that we don't have to wait for the 2 million to be inoculated before we pilot test?

SEN. WIN: This is a very difficult question to answer, it is really a judgment call. If the President sees the 2 million is the number that will give that certain comfort level, not only to him no but also to our parents because I talked to a lot of parents and they're also quite uncomfortable with face to face classes, if that is the number that will bring up that comfort level, then we have to respect that number but looking at the number of vaccines coming in the country that 2 million seems to be not far away. We're ready. I think in the next few weeks we'll have a million plus doses coming in, and the vaccines will start coming. A lot of the vaccines will start coming in in the next few weeks so the 2 million mark is not so far away.

Q: Okay, what conditions would you like to see other than the zero or almost no COVID cases to implement this limited face to face and in what manner?

SEN. WIN: That's a very good question. In fact, we should trust our scientists and medical experts especially epidemiologists to recommend what are the other epidemiological measurements that we should look at. We should look at positivity rates, we can look at transmission rates. I'm not an expert but from what I observe that transmission rates in those areas should be below one in the positivity rates in those areas should be below at least 5 percent or less. So, but these are just off the top numbers that I read and I use, but we should form a panel of experts even within the DepEd to tell us where we can pilot that safely because ultimately what's important here is the safety of our students, the safety of our teachers and especially our parents because in accepting, when we open classes, the parents also go out to bring their students or to bringing their children to school and they pick them up. Unlike in the US while they have school buses but here in the Philippines the parents are the ones who bring their children to school. So, these are the things that we should look at and study not only looking at other models in other countries.

Q: Okay, what else would you want. You have inflation rate at an all time high in recent years, the prices of pork clearly have not stabilized, the Secretary says it will by this month. But you also see a contraction in the economy of 9.5% last year. What is important or vital for the government to do to recover that we are other neighbors are recovering.

SEN. WIN: Well, number one, I think everyone shares the same feeling and you don't have to be an expert in this, the vaccine should come in as fast as it can. And this is the only solution that we have to jumpstart our economy. Inflation was a supply problem. We could have avoided that a long time ago because we know that the African swine flu was here. And we know that the ASF will disrupt supply and if you look at the inflation, there's only one reason why inflation went up because of food, and there was a shortage of meat. Actually that could have been avoided if we were fast enough to react to the African swine flu. Having said that the only solution is the vaccine. That's why the Senate also approved the vaccine bill, to give a lot of power and flexibility to the local governments and to the private sector to help national government roll out the vaccine as fast as possible. We need the local governments, we cannot do this to centralized. We need the local governments to help buy and distribute the vaccine.

Q: I'm curious. Do you agree with the price ceiling when it comes to pork, because some experts have said, putting a price ceiling clearly did not work. It's actually increasing the minimum access volume or imports that wouldn't stabilize the prices. Where do you stand on this because there is still a price ceiling?

SEN WIN: My view on these issues on pricing is two pronged. Number one, the price ceiling is meant to just stabilize prices it's not meant to be long term meaning if you impose price ceiling there's an aberration in in the supply, and you need to push price, an input price ceiling so that consumers can afford but it's not meant to be long term it's just meant to stabilize prices. The other approach is to look at possible abuses and collusion and this has been a problem in several sectors. That's why when you impose price ceiling, you have to make sure that you also investigate what is causing the supply problem. It can be collusion. It can be some cartelization in some sectors. But in this particular case, because there's a shortage of supply, it can also be the shortage of supply, coupled with collusion that has caused prices to spike.

Q: Okay. Now another issue Bayanihan 3, do you see that as a tool that will be able to well, at the very least, the sectors that did not have enough assistance support during the last two? Do you see Bayanihan 3 as necessary? Because there are mixed reactions on this but the lower house has already prepared. I mean they even have a figure, P420 million for Bayanihan 3.

SEN. WIN: I don't see the point for Bayanihan 3. The 2021 budget is the Bayanihan 3. That's why when we were crafting the 2021 budget we asked the executive and the executive also gave recommendations that they need to jumpstart our economy this 2021. That's why Bayanihan 3 is the 2021 budget. The items there are fully considered. The items in the 2021 budget are the items that are recommended by the executive department to jumpstart our economy, to help our MSMEs and to also help roll out the vaccine. So I don't see the need for the Bayanihan 3 because all items there are already included in the 2021 budget. Actually on the table, just to add is the guide bill and the guide bill, basically will enable Landbank and DBP to help our MSMEs and this is on the table because on top of the 2021 budget, the guide bill which will release loans at a much cheaper rate to our MSMEs and strategic businesses will help jumpstart also the economy from a business point of view.

Q: But I'm curious about the breakdown of the Bayanihan 3. Itong P420 billion appropriate in the lower house is they did put in additional money for let's say this P52 billion in subsidies for small business for wages. For example, so technically it's giving wages that were lost. I don't think that's in the 2021 budget.

SEN. WIN: The thing is with Bayanihan 3 if you reallocate funds, this early on, you have to take it from somewhere else. And the budget was crafted on the basis of need and necessity. So, meaning if you have to reallocate the budget through Bayanihan 3 you have to take it out from somewhere, and that will hamper the entire budget allocation. So what was being contemplated right now on top of the 2021 budget is just Guide Bill. Basically the Guide Bill will give the government additional firepower to lend to MSMEs and to strategic businesses. So on top of 2021, there's a Guide Bill, but the Guide Bill will be funded by the GFIs, and that will be cascaded to businesses.

Q: Is the bigger issue the release of the funds? I mean Bayanihan 2 have you already done an audit and an oversight on all the funds of Bayanihan 2 been released?

SEN. WIN: Well, that's always been an issue, the absorption capacity, and I know, not all, but some of the items in Bayanihan 2 are still waiting to be dispersed. If I'm not mistaken, there are a lot of items there but on top of my head those support to let's say to the education sector, those support to the business sector are also not fully dispersed so I think one of the most important aspect is not only approving the law but also pushing for the full implementation of the law. In this case, the funds allocated in Bayanihan 2.

News Latest News Feed