MANILA - Local officials on Thursday urged senators to further delay the opening of classes this year while a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be developed.
Enforcing physical distancing will be difficult despite efforts to include online, TV and radio platforms in teaching, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines Chairman Dakila Cua told the Senate health committee.
"I respectfully beg to our legislators and our policymakers na pag-isipan. Sa tingin ko po ang mas mahalaga ay ang kalusugan at ang kapakanan, ang buhay ng ating mga anak. And for this year alone maybe we can be a little more flexible," said Cua, governor of Quirino province,
(I respectfully beg our legislators and our policymakers to think about it. I think the health and well-being of our children is more important. And for this year alone maybe we can be a little more flexible.)
School children cannot be expected to refrain from physical contact during playtime, Cua said, adding authorities have to be "practical."
The government should allow the Department of Education "maximum flexibilty" on the number of school days so that students will not be forced to have classes for about 200 days during the global pandemic, Cua said.
The DepEd earlier moved the opening of classes to August 24, 2 months behind schedule.
A late August school opening is "too early," League of Provinces of the Philippines national president Presbitero Velasco Jr said.
The premature opening of classes during the coronavirus crisis may compromise the health of children, League of Municipalities of the Philippines president Luis Chavit Singson said.
"Mas importante po ang survival nila kesa education. Aanhin mo yung education kung mamamatay naman yung mga bata?" he said.
(Survival is more important than education. What good is education if the children will die?)
Senate Health Committee chair Christopher "Bong" Go backed the suggestion of the local officials, and cited President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement that there should be no face-to-face classes while a COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available.
"We will take this one step at a time so that we can slowly, but surely, protect the safety of our students. ‘Wag natin biglain. Let's assess first what happens in the coming days," he said.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said education in the country must not come to a standstill because classes can be conducted using various platforms.
Face-to-face learning has been discouraged to avoid exposing students, teachers, and school personnel to the risk of contracting COVID-19, she said.
Earlier this week, the Senate began debating on a bill that would grant the president the power to move school opening beyond August during national calamities and pandemics.
- with a report from Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News