Press Release
July 20, 2021

One News Agenda Interview of Senator Win Gatchalian with Cito Beltran on opening of classes, vaccination of kids and 2022 election

Q: Top question for you this morning from many viewers is, are you supporting, do you believe that we can open up schools come September?

SEN. WIN: Well, Cito, come September classes will open. In what form is still a question mark. We want to pursue face-to-face classes but I'm approaching this with a lot of caution precisely from what I've heard earlier from Mayor Oca. Mayor Oca is a veteran mayor, a veteran public servant. I can sense from his voice that we have to be very cautious not to panic, but very cautious in our situation now. So in short, Cito we will have class openings. It will be most likely in the form of distance learning, meaning we will use modules. But I'm still hoping that the situation will get better by the time, and if it gets better, we can launch few pilot schools using face-to-face or going back to face-to-face, in those areas.

Q: Okay, Senator, we've been talking about those pilot face-to-face schools. Today, we have not seen even, I don't know about you, but I have not seen or heard of one actual unit or model that was put in place to try it out. Have you seen a model, a working model that was put in place?

SEN. WIN: DepEd has been preparing for this for quite some time already, and I've seen the protocols that they have put in place. However, the actual pilot schools is not yet. And precisely because of the very uncertain situation. The situation is very hard. For example, when we had this interview, I think, first part of the year, there were about 500 LGUs which had zero COVID. But now, I I looked at the latest numbers we only have 157 LGUs. So from a high of 35 percent LGUs that had zero COVID, now we only have 10 percent. Bumaba siya because of the situation. So in other words, the situation is really very difficult to predict. However, some of the areas admittedly have zero COVID which personally I think we can launch pilot schools there. But again, we're facing a very difficult situation because of the unpredictability of the virus.

Q: Yesterday I picked up a news from Singapore. I believe with the Singapore, they will be vaccinating 650,000 High School senior students and the teachers of that group, who will be taking the National College Entrance Exams in Singapore. So what they did was they program, they made the program, that's vaccinate those who will take the exams and who will be proctors to the exams. So this kids can do it, and we don't have to worry about infection. Now 650,000 is a small number, but I think it would also entail a smaller number for this pilot schools. Kasi parang, you know, there's already BBA bubbles. There are, you know, certain volleyball bubble, I think, but ironic that we're doing it for professional sports, but not for schools now, I won't go into the 17 below. But we need to start somewhere, what's your thinking on this?

SEN. WIN: Cito, two things. Number one, I'm lobbying very hard to get the teenagers vaccinated. This is a question of supply. But I'm lobbying very hard to get that study and the protocols up already. So by the time we get enough supply we can already vaccinate teenagers. And this is a very crucial stage in going back to face-to-face classes. So, a lot of countries, particularly the United States and European countries started vaccinating their teenagers and this is a crucial step. Number 2, our schools here in the Philippines, this, in my opinion is a small economic community. If you go inside the schools, there's a cafeteria and canteen run by concessionaires. When you go out, there are also canteens, tindahan, sari-sari stores. There are also tricycles that bring students back and forth. So it's a small economic community. I can see the logic on why the President is quite hesitant because it can be a vector for the spread of the virus because a lot of activities go around the school. The students don't just go to school and go out, they go to school they eat, they go out to the nearby store, and there's a lot of activity going around school opening. So the President is very cautious with that. The kids might not get infected as fast or as science say, but their parents, the shopkeepers, mga sari-sari store owners, they might be susceptible to the virus spread. So that's why the approach to school opening should be very cautious and the step forward to that is pilot schools in zero COVID areas. and this is, again, something that is quite uncertain like I was telling you before there were about 500 schools now there's only 150 schools so again the situation is changing quite rapidly.

Q: It's commendable that you are pushing for the teenagers to be vaccinated because that is the direction being taken by the European countries, by the United States and Canada, because they are also discovering that it is there, unvaccinated young adults that are now landing in the hospitals, because you know, hiding them in the home isn't going to protect them when you have adults going out the door. Now, going back to the topic of education, evidently, we have a problem with health workers, because we don't have any left kumbaga nagkaubusan na. And one of the reasons being blamed is that many schools were shut down by the CHED as their only solution or their immediate solution for bad quality graduates. Now, everyone keeps talking about bad quality graduates, bad nursing schools, but no one is talking about how do we restart this sector. And what can, what do you think the CHED should be doing because medyo nakaka-frustrate na. Ako may isang scholar naghahanap pa ako kung saan matinong eskwehalan. You know, you would think that in this country, all schools which should be of equal quality but I have to actually call a director of a local hospital, boss saan ba tayo pwedeng magpaaral ng nursing?

SEN. WIN: This pandemic created a lot of complications. And for Med schools, Cito it created a double whammy situation. Number one, we urgently need medical professionals. The medical schools are the producers of this medical professionals. But we cannot produce medical professionals by mere online learning. We have to go and do apprenticeship, they have to go to the hospitals to practice what they learn. A lot of their education comes from hands on, or apprenticeship modalities. So it's important for them to practice it and to get their hands dirty. And the pandemic closed a lot of our schools and a lot of our medical students cannot practice. So now CHED has opened, a few months already, face-to-face learning for medical professionals or for medical students because precisely they realized that we will be experiencing a shortage of medical professionals if we won't produce medical professional. So a good example will be here, in Valenzuela. Fatima school opened their Fatima medical school, they opened their face-to-face classes already. They really practice high standard health protocols, meaning the students wear PPEs. They practice social distancing, they have alcohol and temperature measurements.

Q: Fatima is recognized as a good institution when it comes to health related education courses. My question was, what can be done so that we have good nursing schools that are start up again. And can we consider ang mga hindi pumasa, those who failed the nursing licensure exams to be placed on a parang training status etc. I am sure you get what I mean but what can we do about the shortage?

SEN. WIN: Two things, Cito. Our economy needs to rev up and the nation needs to continue moving. In order to do that we need professionals, we need graduates from college or else we will not have a competent workforce to rev up our economy. So colleges should already start and as an example, that it can happen is Fatima, where the practice very high standard of health protocols. So CHED should really allow face-to-face classes in tertiary education provided that this tertiary education institutions should practice high standards of health protocols. And it's possible, and again like Fatima, their facilities, and how they practice health protocols.

Q: Would you support an arrangement where colleges can open up if the national government or parang teamwork between the DOH, IATF and the colleges or tertiary schools for vaccinating their people and enrollees kasi yun ang laging binabalikan ni DepEd Secretary Briones. We can do face-to-face if everyone is vaccinated. Now, that's not a huge population. But, you know, it would be an ideal situation, to give them vaccination upon enrollment.

SEN. WIN: First of all, students, college students are already allowed to be vaccinated. They're part of the A4, A5 And they're in the 18 and above already so they're allowed to be vaccinated. And what's important right now is for the Colleges, for higher tertiary education to have this very strict protocol.

Q: Yeah, pasensya ka na Senator kasi I go around here like you do. And maraming 18 and above, maraming college level students, you know, they're still waiting in lala land. But if we actually have a program, vaccination program for enrollees in colleges and the teachers, maybe we'll get this ball rolling, because I'm on the same page as your hand, we have same goals. Sabi ko nga kapag hindi natin ito, kasi parang basketball talagang trinabaho nila. they really work at it and they get it and I think the same should be done for colleges.

SEN. WIN: That's a good idea, to give special vaccination programs, a special vaccination program for college professors and even basic education teachers. Again, the goal here is to get as normal as possible. To reach normalcy as quick as possible. And that will only happen if we vaccinate them. And I do agree to the idea to give special program para lang sa kanila, and we can roll out the vaccination program.

Q: Sige, mag-aadviser na lang ako sayo kapag nag-Vice President ka na. Pero last question ko na lang, last minute, ano ba yan talaga Senator Win, I was under the impression that you are running for re-election as a senator, but, ano na naman ito ba't may Vice President talk about you. Are you a reelectionist or what?

SEN. WIN: I'm a reelectionist, Cito but I'm open to running for the vice presidency position and the reason for that is 20 years na ako Cito in public service. I've been to both sides, executive and legislative side, and I have enough experience to implement reforms and my view is if we want to implement quick reforms, you have to be in the executive side. So I've been in legislative side for nine years ready so it's about time to go back to the executive side.

Q: Well, I mean if anyone would be the right choice you would be the right choice for that and I would support that. But personally, Senator na lang muna tayo marami ka pang magagawa. Thank you very much, Senator Gatchalian.

SEN. WIN: Thanks, Cito.

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