Batanes lone district Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr. is eyeing a House resolution asking the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to consider allowing face-to-face classes in areas where it is deemed feasible.
Members of the Committee on North Luzon Growth Quadrangle, in a virtual hearing Thursday afternoon expressed backing for the action of Gato, who hails from a province that remains free of COVID-19.
The hearing’s purpose was to give updates to the North Luzon solons regarding the Department of Education’s (DepEd) preparations for the opening of classes on August 24 amid the public health emergency.
“I understand the official position of the Department is the modular distance learning. But considering that our province has never had COVID since the onset of this pandemic…May I ask if there’s a possibility if our province be allowed to use the face-to-face mode of teaching?” Gato said, directing his query to attending DepEd officials.
“May I appeal to the central office to help us in making an appeal. I understand some other island provinces are planning to make an appeal for an exception. Because as mentioned…[there] are many problems that may be encountered in the new modular distance learning,” he added.
Aside from being COVID-free, Batanes also has a light teacher to student ratio, meaning physical distancing can be easily implemented in local classrooms should face-to-face instruction be green-lit. “The teacher-learner ratio is 1:11, elementary and high school,” he said.
Before the hearing was over, Gato bared that he would pen a resolution for this purpose. He said he would also personally write the IATF.
Airing his support, panel chairman and Pangasinan 5th Rep. Ramon Guico III advised Gato to include in his resolution all areas in the country that have a situation similar to his province.
“I don’t think it’s isolated to Batanes. I think some areas in the Cordillera [Administrative Region] also want to do that. Kasi may communities sa CAR na COVID-free and small communities lang sila. Baka they could consider that (There are communities in CAR that are COVID-free, these are small communities. Maybe they can be considered),” Guico said.
He said the tone of the resolution should be to “contextualize the mode of instruction” of the schools concerned.
DepEd Assistant Secretary Alma Ruby Torio said she recognizes Gato’s concerns, and that there have been multiple requests for the conduct of face-to-face instruction both at the regional and divisional levels.
“Just last night we had our execom with our secretary, and all the usecs and the asecs were asked on their pinion whether or not they recommend the conduct of face-to-face classes,” she said.
But Torio noted in the end that it is only President Duterte–through the recommendation of the IATF–who can decide on the matter.
President Duterte said last May that there would be no face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available in the market.