MANILA (UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said in-person classes would be allowed starting January 2021, clarifying earlier statements he made, as the COVID-19 threat remains.
Last week, the president approved the Department of Education's proposal to hold limited in-person or face-to-face classes in areas with low risk of COVID-19 transmission.
In his 5th State of the Nation Address, Duterte said he approved of the proposal, assuming that a vaccine against COVID-19 would be available by September.
"I seemed to have said that I would allow the face-to-face classes to resume. We were talking actually of January because my thinking is by September, we would have the vaccine," he said.
"I cannot and will not put to risk the health and lives of our students and teachers," he added.
Duterte also said he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to give the Philippines priority access if Beijing discovers a vaccine against COVID-19.
"I made a plea to President Xi Jinping that if they have the vaccine, can they allow us to be one of the first or if it is needed, if we have to buy it, that we will be granted credit so that we can normalize as fast as possible," he said.
The DepEd has said limited face-to-face classes would only be conducted in low-risk areas if a local government unit or school made a request to their regional or division office.
In the coming school year, lessons will be delivered to students through online platforms, printed and digital modules, television and radio.
Classes in public schools are scheduled to start on August 24 while private schools are allowed to open earlier upon the approval of the DepEd's regional directors.
As of Monday morning, 22.1 million learners have enrolled in public and private schools nationwide, according to data from the DepEd.