MANILA — Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday urged government to speed up the construction of field hospitals and quarantine centers so public school buildings would no longer be used to house COVID-19 patients.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate basic education committee, said the use of schools is "not sustainable and does not foster a culture of safety in the basic education system."
"Imbes na masanay tayong gumamit ng mga paaralan bilang isolation facilities o evacuation centers, ang dapat nating tiyakin ay ang pagkakaroon ng sapat at angkop na mga pasilidad para sa mga nangangailangan ng tulong medikal," he said in a statement.
(Instead of us getting used to using schools as isolation facilities or evacuation centers, we should have enough facilities for those in need of medical help.)
Gatchalian noted that before the pandemic, the prolonged use of school facilities in times of disasters — such as evacuation centers during typhoons — often delayed the resumption of classes.
Schools are currently implementing distance learning but the DepEd has been pushing for the gradual resumption of in-person classes.
The lawmaker pitched again his proposal to build an evacuation center in every city and municipality in the country. He first proposed this through Senate Bill No. 747, filed in 2019.
Under the proposed measure, the evacuation centers may serve as temporary accommodation for people who have been removed from their homes due to emergencies, including disease outbreaks.
Latest data from the Department of Education (DepEd) showed that 1,212 schools in the country are being used as quarantine facilities for COVID-19 patients.
Schools were recently converted again into quarantine facilities as the country experienced a rise in coronavirus infections.