COVID-19 response should headline Duterte’s SONA, says Sen. Angara

Published July 25, 2020, 11:06 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara looks forward to hearing the administration’s plans for all the sectors affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in President Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) this coming Monday.

Sen. Sonny Angara (Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

With no end in sight with regard to the pandemic, it would be interesting to hear the government’s roadmap for the rest of the year and the year ahead, Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said.

“As we open up from various stages of quarantine, I would like to hear more on the ‘new normal’ or ‘next normal’ in terms of our children’s education since we have over 20 million of our children in schools,” he added.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has set the opening of classes on August 24, 2020 with a mix of face-to-face and distance learning.

There will be limited face-to-face classes in areas deemed as low-risk for COVID-19 and in schools that are able to meet the minimum health standards.

For these limited face-to-face classes, Angara said the DepEd should proceed with extreme caution because based on the experiences of countries such as China and France, which opened up their schools too soon, “there was a second wave and the schools were one of the super spreaders of the virus.”

Angara threw his support to distance or hybrid types of learning, but said that the government must do its part to ensure that the entire student population has access to all the digital tools needed and that reliable internet access is available in all areas of the country.

On the health front, Angara said he wants to hear the President’s plans on how to improve on what is already being done by the Department of Health (DOH) and other relevant agencies.

“I would also like to hear if we have improved (or plan to improve) our health systems to have better testing, contact tracing and quarantine facilities nationwide,” he added.

Angara noted that testing for COVID-19 has already shown improvements but it is on the contact tracing front where a lot more work needs to be done.

“I think it is something we don’t do very well yet—to trace and to limit the spread of COVID. This should all be done in real time so that government is able to react faster. They can contact certain people and make sure they are isolated in quarantine,” he stressed.

With regard to labor, Angara said there should be a concrete plan on how to save jobs amid the impact of the pandemic on businesses.

“I want to hear how government can help those in the informal sector, employees of badly affected businesses and in poorer areas/regions. Bold steps would go a long way in restoring hope and optimism going forward,” he pointed out.

Angara said the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2, is ready for approval on third and final reading.

Just like Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Bayanihan 2 will provide the President the flexibility to realign funds in budgets of different agencies for the government’s COVID-19 response.

A total of P140 billion will be allocated for the fiscal stimulus and relief package under Bayanihan 2.