No face-to-face classes until coronavirus vaccine becomes available, Duterte assures

Published July 27, 2020, 9:03 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte has ruled out the traditional face-to-face classes until the coronavirus vaccine becomes available to ensure the health of students is protected.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

“Until the COVID-19 vaccine is available, I will not allow the traditional face-to-face teaching or learning unless risks of exposure to sickness are eliminated. I cannot and will not put to risk the health and lives of our students and teachers,” he said as he encouraged blended education during the coronavirus pandemic.

He explained that his recent pronouncement allowing face-to-face classes in some areas in January was pegged on the hopes that a vaccine may be available by September.

To boost the blended education for students during the pandemic, Duterte said the government intends to use television frequencies returned to the state.

He directed the concerned agencies to craft a mechanism on the possible use of such broadcast frequencies for alternative learning methods during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday. 

“TV frequencies reverted to the government for whatever cause or reason [shall be used] exclusively to the exclusion of [private] persons or [their] dummies, to cope with the demand of the next normal. These will be used to provide uninterrupted quality education to our children in our shift to e-learning,” the President said his public address that lasted less than two hours.

“I am directing Secretary (Menardo) Guevarra, Secretary (Fortunato) Dela Peña and Secretary (Gregorio) Honasan, in collaboration with Secretary (Leonor) Briones, and Secretary (Wendel) Avisado, together with Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez, to come up with an integrated program and implementation mechanism to ensure that these TV frequencies are fully utilized by government through the facilities of PTV4 for the utmost benefit of the Filipino people,” he said.

A House panel recently denied the franchise application of ABS-CBN network over alleged violations of the law. The network was forced to shut down its free television and radio stations since its 25-year franchise lapsed early May.

The President did not mention the embattled network’s broadcast frequency in his speech.

Duterte, however, maintained that frequencies and other resources that belong to the country will be used for the welfare of the people.

“For the remaining two years of my term, all that is good that belongs to government, whether it be the airwaves, whether it be the lines, or whatever that is good for the people, will belong to the government and it should be government who should be given the first option to utilize them,” he said.

During his speech, the President vowed to ensure the health and safety of students as he frowned on physical classes for now.

The government will instead implement online learning, modular learning, and TV- and radio-based broadcast, which students coming from different backgrounds can avail. He said the Department of Education will provide printed modules for those who cannot afford online learning. 

In support of the learning continuity program through blended learning, Duterte said the government intends to increase the number of schools with information and communication technology equipment in the coming months.

He said the DepEd and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) are building up the Public Education Network (PEN) that will connect all public schools and DepEd offices nationwide.

“We will prioritize the connection of all Last Mile Schools and those with no electricity supply can have it via satellite and energized via solar panels. By 2022, before I step down, the PEN shall be realized,” he said.