Gatchalian urges gov't: Take ABS-CBN offer to use network for distance learning

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 29 2020 09:19 PM

Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday urged the national government to take ABS-CBN's offer to help in airing educational programs in the coming school year.

ABS-CBN's transmission facilities could reach some "19 million households out of more than 21 million nationwide" and owns Knowledge Channel, which has "produced thousands of educational content," Gatchalian said in a statement.

"This is a win-win-win solution for all parties - for ABS-CBN, for the Department of Education and for our children who urgently need to learn even under the pandemic," said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education, Culture and Arts.

ABS-CBN offered its transmission network to the government hours after President Rodrigo Duterte's 5th State of the Nation Address, where he instructed several agencies to come up with programs that would provide quality education to Filipino learners during the global pandemic.

ABS-CBN's free television and radio channels went off the air in May after the National Telecommunications Commission declined to give the network provisional license to operate while its franchise renewal bid was still being tackled in Congress.

On July 10, 70 members of the administration-dominated House franchise committee voted against ABS-CBN's bid for a fresh franchise, shuttering the network's main broadcast business. 

It was a fulfillment of Duterte's promise to take the network off the air. 

Duterte had repeatedly admonished ABS-CBN, even claiming that he has "dismantled" oligarchy in the country after the House panel refused to renew ABS-CBN's franchise even after regulatory bodies cleared the media giant of violations.

While ABS-CBN's former frequencies have been vacated, it will be "technically impossible" for the government to use these airwaves, Gatchalian earlier said.

"It will be technically impossible to use the frequency... [because] the frequency is very specific to the equipment," Gatchailan said in an online press conference last week.

The government will need "permission" from ABS-CBN to use its facilities compatible with the vacated frequency, he said.

The government has shifted to a distance learning system for the coming school year to limit the possible exposure of students and teachers to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

While some students in Metro Manila can learn via online classes, several learners - especially in rural areas - have to rely on radio and television programs and printed modules as they have no access to the internet.

Some 1.3 million learners prefer television as an alternative learning modality for distance learning, according to a report from the Department of Education.