House panel endorses request for face-to-face classes in Batanes

Published August 6, 2020, 5:38 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The House Committee on Basic Education and Culture has approved a measure that seeks to gain the green light for the conduct of face-to-face classes in Batanes during the time of COVID-19.

Approved Thursday was House Resolution (HR) No.1057, which expresses the sense of the House in requesting President Duterte, through the Inter-Agency Task Force  for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Philippines and the Department of Education (DepEd), to allow the conduct of traditional face-to-face classes in the province of Batanes, which remains low risk and COVID-free.

Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr. filed the measure, the purpose of which reflected the very unique conditions of his province.

Gato noted during the virtual hearing of the panel that Batanes, the smallest province in the country in both population and land area, has recorded zero positive cases of COVID-19. It is located in the northernmost tip of the Philippines.

Aside from remaining COVID-free, Gato had also highlighted in another panel hearing last July 9 the low teacher-to-student ratio in Batanes that would theoretically facilitate face-to-face education amid the threat of the coronavirus. “The teacher-learner ratio is 1:11, elementary and high school,” he said.

ACT-Teachers party-List Rep. France Castro posed no objection to the aim of the resolution, granted that the observation of minimum health standards for students and teachers would be assured during classes.

Duterte has repeatedly said that he won’t allow any face-to-face classes to take place until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available in the market.  DepEd has been frantically readying distance-learning modalities in time for the reopening of classes on Aug.  24.

Marikina City Rep. Bayani Fernando expressed worries during the Basic Education hearing that other jurisdictions might ask for similar exemptions if the Batanes resolution gets approved. He said this would be chaotic.

Panel chairman and Pasig City lone district Rep. Roman Romulo said they are ready and willing to discuss such bills and hear the opinion of experts and stakeholders with respect to other areas that may also request clearance for traditional classes.