Press Release
August 19, 2022

Opening statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on urgent issues in basic education

Organizational meeting of the Senate Committee on Basic Education

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, good morning. Good morning also to our Vice President and Secretary of the Department of Education.

I am extremely excited about the opening of face-to-face classes. As the Chairman knows, I have been pushing for this months after we went into the pandemic. Our children have suffered greatly because of the closure. There are no ways to really make up for the loss of time. To a certain extent, it was beyond their control. But to another extent, I regret that we did not move fast enough to really give them the opportunity to go back to school.

And now that many private schools have opened, I am very happy to see anyone who has young children, who has friends with young children - the joy in their face is apparent. Just to see their friends, their mental wellbeing is addressed, and to be able to understand their teachers more because of the face-to-face setting cannot be compared with the online environment that sadly has been the reality for almost two years.

So I am looking forward to the opening of the public schools as well. And I just like to put on record, I have not heard any report, but I just wanted the Secretary to know that the Senate put in P2.6 billion to cover the expenses of the implementation of face-to-face. Wala naman ako narinig na may problema on that note, but of course, we'd like to hear if there are. But that amount, I hope, has been made available to the department, to the schools.

And we also put in additional P100 million for public school health facilities, which include handwashing. Not sure if it would be covered in the presentation, but one of the recommendations of DepEd and DOH was to improve the health facilities in these schools, yung handwashing and even the bathroom facilities, which are sorely lacking in many schools. So we would be happy to help in that regard, given the clear scenario that we are facing.

There is much more to say but I will hold my comments, which really are comments from the last few years that we've been seeing the development of the education sector. Suffice it to say that we are looking forward to the opening of schools.

And one more point, as your Chairman of the Committee on the SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, it is always my job to ensure that we see the bigger picture. I'd like to put on record that [for Socioeconomic Planning] Secretary Karl Chua of the previous administration had mentioned that P1.9 trillion in losses are incurred each year because of the closure of schools. I'll repeat, P1.9 trillion, because the schools are actually economic hubs, so when the schools were closed, all the outlets, carinderia, carts that sell whatever snacks the kids eat, the small suppliers, school supplies, ballpen, notebook, paper, and all up the supply chain were all affected.

So the opening of schools would also be good for our economy, Mr. Chairman.

Anyway, I'll end here and look forward to the presentation. Thank you very much.

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