Duterte thumbs down fresh bid to resume in-person classes – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   February 22, 2021   •   308

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected for a second time, proposals to resume face-to-face classes in the country amid the continuing threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Malacañang said Monday.

“Nagdesisyon na po ang president ha, wala pa rin po tayong face-to-face classes sa bansa,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said

“Ang sabi niya, ayaw po niyang malagay sa panganib o alanganin ang buhay ng ating mga mag-aaral at mga guro habang wala pa pong nababakunahan sa bansa,” he added.

Roque issued the statement after the Department of Education (DepEd) earlier expressed support for fresh bids to conduct a dry-run of in-person classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission.

He, however, said that face-to-face classes may be considered in August this year after the launch of the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

“Sabi niya, may awa po ang Panginoon, baka naman po pagkatapos nating malunsad ang ating vaccination program, pwede na tayong mag-face to face sa Agosto lalong-lalo na dun sa mga lugar na mababa po ang COVID-19 cases,” he said.

A pilot test of limited face-to-face classes was supposed to be held by the government last January but was ordered suspended by Duterte due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones last week said that a survey conducted by her agency showed that more than 50% of students were in favor of attending face-to-face classes.

Briones also said that the Philippines is also the only country in Southeast Asia that has yet to resume limited in-person classes to supplement distance learning modalities. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte to wait for FDA approval before using Sinopharm vax – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will wait for China-state-owned Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine to secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before receiving a dose, his spokesperson said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the announcement after the FDA confirmed that it has received Sinopharm’s application for an EUA that was filed on Monday afternoon.

“Mag-aantay po si president ng EUA dahil nabalita ko nga kahapon, mayroon na pong nag-apply ng EUA for the Sinopharm,” Roque said in a press briefing.

Securing an EUA from the FDA is part of the process for a vaccine to be legally used in the country.

The FDA earlier approved a compassionate use license for 10,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines for the members of the Presidential Security Group.

The agency, however, clarified that the issuance of such a permit is not tantamount to a stamp of approval.

Duterte earlier expressed a preference for Sinopharm developed COVID-19 vaccines. – RRD (with details from Correspondent 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.

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