Press Release
May 27, 2021

One News Agenda Interview of Senator Win Gatchalian on vaccine hesitancy, distance learning and sim card registration

Vaccine hesitancy

Q: Before we get into the serious stuff, were you in any way participating in the recent dialogues in the Senate where Senator Cynthia Villar was lamenting the fact na yung mga senior citizens ay hindi pa pinapalabas?

SEN. WIN: No, I wasn't there but I read the part of the conversation between her and Senator Binay and of course, Senator Cynthia is a senior citizen and she feels the plight of our senior citizens. In fact, many of our families are not given the chance to get together because their lolos and lolas cannot go out of their houses. The sooner, of course the theory here is the sooner they can go out, the sooner they can mingle with their family members, but of course we have to follow science and for now, because a lot of our senior citizens are not vaccinated yet. Cito, vaccine hesitancy is real, and our experience here in Valenzuela, even though we went house to house to invite all of our senior citizens to get vaccinated, only 20% went out to get vaccinated so 80% are still unvaccinated and that's the danger there if we allow them to go out.

Q: But Senator, what really is the problem? Kasi pasensya ka na no, Is it a question of mobility, is it a fear of going out of the house, is it the hesitance because of the crowded vaccination center, ano ba talaga problema?

SEN. WIN: Cito I read the SWS survey and it says it all, and to sum-up the answer to your question is fear, takot, takot sila because it might harm their health, takot sila because it might have side effects, takot sila because they don't know the facts about the vaccine. Even though there are a lot of doctors and experts saying that the vaccines are safe, the thing is, our senior citizens are very old and they have a lot of complications, takot sila because the vaccines may aggravate their complications. So, the basic reason there and the basic answer is fear. That's why we have to overcome fear, before we overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Q: But it is timely that you are the chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, because I think we would both agree that to counter fear, You must educate, you must inform... Where is this, why are we not hearing this from the government and from those who allegedly supposedly are promoting Vaccine Information?

SEN WIN: Actually Cito, you're absolutely correct, because we ran a survey in Valenzuela to solve our own vaccine hesitancy, and we found out there that one of the effective ways to convince our constituents to get their vaccines is for them to see their leaders, their trusted leaders and also trusted personalities to promote vaccination. So, in other words, people will listen to their trusted public servants and personalities, so ako, my simple approach here is to be able to overcome vaccine hesitancy is for our leaders to come out. Our president or vice president, our senate president our Speaker of the House, even media personalities such as yourself, because the trust, yung tiwala ng tao to personalities is very high and if you look at the SWS survey again, less than or more than, almost 50% of those who don't trust, or who those who don't want to get vaccines are in the lower segment of our society or the lower income segment of our society, meaning the D and E class, those who didn't finish elementary and high school. So we need to convince them, because, obviously, their knowledge about vaccines and medicine is quite shallow, so we need to communicate with them and convince them to get their vaccines.

Q: Senator, yung pinag-uusapan natin kanina you were saying that the hesitancy is greater among the poorer segments of society, yung A and E, sabi nga ni Secretary Carlito Galvez, pero ang tanong sila ba ay nag-aalinlangan magpabakuna o iniisip lang nila na wala naman silang mapapala... number one. Number two, if you're going to make me choose between going to be vaccinated wasting half a day, or an entire day, magtatrabaho na lang ako. And number three, whether we like it or not, a dito medyo umiikot-ikot din ako... napapatanong nga ako kay Lord, sabi ko Lord ginawa mo bang bulletproof itong mga mahihirap, parang wala sa kanilang tinatablan nitong COVID-19 na ito. So maybe they may have this misimpression, maling pag-aalala na he di naman tumatama sa amin eh wala dito sa barangay namin so okay lang.

SEN. WIN: Cito I think it's partly cultural, in a sense, you're right, some of our less fortunate constituents think that they can cure themselves and because of their daily exposure to the environment, it actually helped them develop their immunity against sickness, against viruses but I think for me, the basic reason is the lack of information and the lack of appreciation. I think a lot of our poor constituents do not appreciate that vaccines can prevent the virus and can help them continue their work and help them reduce their downtime. So lack of appreciation is one reason. That's why sabi ko nga Cito another approach is to let the general public, those who are willing, those who want to get vaccinated, get vaccinated. I believe that if enough people get vaccinated, we will build critical mass within and after building that critical mass we will be able to hit a tipping point in which everyone, the others who are hesitant, will be compelled to get their vaccine. So my call to the IATF, come June is to allow the general public to get vaccinated already because looking at statistics only 32% want to get vaccinated and if you multiply that by the number of people here NCR plus, that's only 8 million. That's less than the 21 million inventory that we will have by June.

Q: Okay, kayo naman sa Valenzuela, I know between you and your brothers, I mean you guys are pro-active and masisipag kayo. Have you ever considered doing a deep research interview of our seniors in this sense as to why they can't seem to make it to the vaccination center? Kasi parang lahat naman ng senior citizen lalo na yung mas matatanda sa atin nakakausap natin at desidido sila they want to be vaccinated. But it's a puzzle, it's a question that needs to be answered. It's a riddle actually.

SEN. WIN: Yeah Cito anecdote lang, I don't have a honest to goodness formal research that was conducted, but anekdota lang meaning we've asked some of our senior citizens and some of our senior citizens come to us to tell their story and most, in my opinion, my analysis. Most again lack the appreciation of why the vaccine is important, and in some we can see, hinahantay nila yung kanilang kapitbahay o yung kanilang kaibigan muna, and a lot of them are just standing by and looking and observing and see, and they want to decide later on when a lot of people are already vaccinated, so marami tuloy tayong fence sitters, so to speak.

Q: Okay, can we prompt the fence sitters to act by putting a deadline, or telling them well, haggang June 15 na lang po kayo after that maghihintay na lang kayo sa August na ulit para sa inyong mga nagpapatagal-tagal pa.

SEN. WIN: That's what I want to do, that's my advice to the IATF, na as early as June allow the general public to come in because there are lots of people. Both rich and poor, there are lots of them who want to get vaccinated, but they're not part of the A4 priority list. So they still have to wait for a long time and that creates uncertainty for themselves. So, my advice and point is to already allow the willing, those who are willing to get vaccinated so that they can go on with their lives, they can go on with their work and again and if we will hit a certain point of critical mass wherein it will encourage other people who are hesitant to get their vaccines.

Vaccination of teenagers

Q: Now Senator Win, next issue you and Sonny Angara, Senator Angara are pushing the DOH and the IATF to consider or evaluate the vaccination of children or young adults, eh para na lang tayong laging nakaatang at nakaasa sa World Health Organization, but in Canada and America and parts of Europe they're already doing that.

SEN. WIN: Correct, in fact that's a sign of things to come. When the US and Canada started their vaccination of teenagers, and that's really the trend, in fact this morning when I was reading the internet, I think it's the CBC in the US, which has already declared that Moderna is safe for teenagers. So in other words, We should already plan to vaccinate our teenagers and this is very good because going back to school is a very emotional activity for parents, and a lot of our parents are uneasy about sending their kids back to school. But if we vaccinate our children, especially the teenagers, then they will have more confidence in sending their kids back to school, and I have to commend the Department of Finance, this early on they already set aside 20 billion pesos to purchase vaccines for our teenagers.

Q: Okay, that's all good news. Now, as I was interviewing JoJo Clemente, of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines. The bad news is, if we don't get tourism off the ground soon, and it lasts, this doldrums or this status quo continues for the next six months, we're going to lose 60% of the industry, I mean permanently lose 60%. Now I'm worried about the education sector. We've already gone to one year of a very confusing module based long distance learning program. Can we afford another school year of this?

SEN. WIN: I'm hoping not Cito, I'm hoping that by August, September we have face-to-face classes at least in low risk and zero COVID areas, we have one year of pure distance learning. 90% of our kids went through distance learning, and personally I'm not so confident with the outcome and we had to tweak our assessment strategy to find out if they are learning or not, but it's not the full assessment activity. So in other words, if we follow the traditional assessment activity, I don't think our children will even pass or qualify for our expectations. So in other words I'm really hoping that by August, we will go back to face to face, of course one thing that we learned from this virus is it's quite unpredictable, and we go back to the issue of vaccination, the sooner we can vaccinate teachers. If our teachers, that's why I'm appealing to our teachers, if it's their time, to go out and get vaccinated.

Distance learning

Q: Okay now, in connection with distance learning and all this stuff. I am sure you caught wind with the allegations that the very important support for distance learning, which was the free WiFi program several years ago of the DICT, essentially was left hanging and now there's even an allegation that there's an over price of half a billion, or something like that. In other words, walang nangyari, 15% accomplishment rate nila, and when I interviewed Usec. Rio, former Undersecretary Rio, he said, well it should have been finished but after he was eased out, nothing was done about it. What's your response to that?

SEN. WIN: It's really sad, the time we need internet the most in our schools and for learners is the time that we bungled this very important project of rolling out Internet, and it's quite sad and disappointing because we know the struggles of our learners to at least have some form of internet in their homes or at least in their barangays. In fact, I personally ran a survey, and almost half of our families were saying, the internet is the biggest problem, or the second biggest problem in terms of distance learning. So having said that, DICT should get to the bottom of this. I worked with Senator Honasan and I know he's a very competent and strict Senator so I trust that he would be investigating this and find out if there is really corruption in the roll-out of the internet, then we should prosecute, we should not let this go because this was, this project was meant to empower schools and empower our learners.

Sim card registration Q: You are still pushing for the SIM card registration. Most of us are shown that that was already part of the process, it is already law, what's, what's the situation?

SEN. WIN: While it's still pending here in the Senate at least and I'm hoping that we can get up and running but definitely one of the weaknesses of protecting our constituents is the lack of registration of SIM cards and that goes even to the very simple delivery services. We found out that a lot of this bogus delivery came from prepaid SIM cards, meaning they buy prepaid SIM cards, they put fake names, addresses, and they order food. It's really sick to be honest about it and these people are sick in their minds but it's happening. So that's why one of the ways to protect our riders, especially riders, simple lang sila, is to already mandate registration of prepaid SIM cards.

Q: What's happening is, it's being used for scams but one would think that at this point in history, in modern history this would be mandatory because it's also a concern for anti- terrorism?

SEN. WIN: Correct, in fact, there are already 155 countries in the world that mandates registration of prepaid SIM cards. So we're one of the minority. They're only 240 plus countries. So in other words, the majority of countries all over the world mandate registration of prepaid sim cards precisely to prevent crime. One of the directions, or one of the goals of registering prepaid SIM card is to prevent crime, prevent terrorism and also prevent as simple as scamming of our delivery riders.

Q: Well, I'll have to close it at that, Senator Win but I'm sure you and I will be talking more often. Thank you for your time and as always wish you, God bless you.

SEN. WIN: Thank you Cito and sorry for the video.

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