Duterte allows limited face-to-face classes in some medical schools

Marje Pelayo   •   January 26, 2021   •   286

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the conduct of face-to-face classes for medical and allied health programs in higher education institutions.

This will be in areas with relaxed quarantine restrictions.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, this is to ensure that the country will not run out of doctors and other medical front liners amid the pandemic.

“Ito po ay para hindi tayo maubusan ng mga doktor, kung hindi po magpapatuloy iyong mga face-to-face ng mga doktor and allied medical professionals,” Roque said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) has allowed face-to-face medical internship at the University of the Philippines – Manila. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

DepEd urged to rollout ‘limited, very controlled’ pilot testing of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sonny Angara has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider conducting a pilot testing of face-to-face classes in areas with very few or zero COVID-19 cases to see how this will work.

Angara said that while he supports calls for the resumption of limited in-person classes, it would be best to conduct a dry-run in areas where physical distancing and other health protocols can be strictly observed.

“Gusto natin maibalik ang face-to-face classes pero be that as it may nagsalita na din si Presidente (Rodrigo Duterte) na bastat walang bakuna ayaw niya mag upisa ng face-to-face classes nationwide,” Angara said in a statement on Sunday.

“Kung sakali, bago tayo mag umpisa ng nationwide rollout ng face-to-face classes, pumili tayo ng isa o dalawang probinsya muna para sa pilot testing,” Angara added.

The pilot areas should also have strong health systems that would be able to handle possible outbreaks in case of “super spreader” events.

“Kailangan ang lugar na yun ay walang masyadong kaso at handa ang kanyang health system kung sakaling magkaroon ng super spreader event,” he said.

Angara said the local government units that will be part of the pilot testing should ensure they have health facilities such as hospitals that are capable of handling a large number of cases–from isolation to treatment.

“Kung i-rollout ng DepEd itong face-to-face classes ay maingat at limitado talaga, under very controlled conditions muna,” Angara said.

Some senators have earlier pushed to reduce the number of schools participating in the dry-run.

Instead of 1,065 as initially proposed by the DepEd, lawmakers want the program be conducted in 500 or lower number of schools with smaller number of students.

The proposal aims to gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angara stressed that any plan to resume face-to-face learning should be done with extreme caution since the risk of contracting COVID-19 still exists in the country.

He believes that the resumption of limited in-person classes would ease off a lot of stress and pressure on both the students and their parents who have been forced to cope with blended learning due to the pandemic.

DepEd urged to form panel of experts on dry run of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to form a panel of experts that will guide the pilot tests of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said the panel of experts should look at the pilot testing program and resumption of in-person classes with a more specialized approach, considering the unique situations of each school.

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin na dahil nag-cancel ng face-to-face classes, titigil na rin tayo sa pilot schools. This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on our learners,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

DepEd earlier said it is eyeing to conduct a dry-run of face-to-face classes in 1,065 schools but some senators proposed to reduce the number of schools to 500 or lower, with a smaller number of students.

Gatchalian said he has expressed support for this proposal to “gather local evidence on the safe resumption of face-to-face classes” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Senate hearing last week, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) cited a global study of 191 countries which showed no association between school status and COVID-19 infection rates.

The PPS also said that one year of school closure is equivalent to two years’ loss on learning.

For the PPS, the effects of prolonged school closures on health and development—including learning losses, increased exposure to violence, sexual abuse, and early pregnancies—can be mitigated if the highest standards of safety measures are observed.

“The damage of school closures can be deeper and longer. During pre-COVID, our learners did not do well in international large-scale assessments and our national achievement scores were not doing great. And now, because of the lack of access to face-to-face education, internet, and gadgets, the learners are left on their own,” Gatchalian said.

DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes, citing an internal department survey which showed that more than 50% of students are in favor of attending physical classes.

The pilot testing was scheduled in January but it was postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

DepEd made a fresh bid for the resumption of physical classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission in February but it was still rejected by Duterte as he stressed that classes will only resume once vaccination against COVID-19 starts.

Duterte plans to visit China to personally thank President Xi for COVID vaccine donations

Marje Pelayo   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is planning to visit China to personally thank President Xi Jinping for donating 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines.

“I’d like to just say that towards the — maybe at the end of the year, when everything has settled down — I intend to make a short visit to China to just shake hands with President Xi Jinping and to personally thank him for this donation,” he said.

President Duterte noted China’s gesture of delivering the vaccine through its government military aircraft unlike other countries who needed to pick up the supply from China.

“I would like to just add that China has donated several vaccines to several countries. But it is only the donation made to the Philippines that was carried by a Chinese government plane. Iyong iba kinukuha doon sa China. Dito, hinatid sa atin,” he said.

The Chief Executive said he may push a trip to China by the end of the year.

Before heading to Beijing, the President said he wanted to visit Xiamen to see the school building that was built in honor of his late mother, Soledad.

“Maybe I’ll go to Xiamen. There’s a school built to honor my mother. You know, my mother was one of the first educators of the Chinese school in Davao,” he said.

Duterte insisted during Sunday’s arrival of China’s Sinovac vaccine that China has not requested anything in return for the donated vaccine adding that the donation is a “gesture of friendship and solidarity” between the two countries. 

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