MANILA - Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Thursday asked why students in COVID-19-free areas are still barred from attending physical classes when "non-essential" activities are already being allowed despite the continuing threat of the global pandemic.
"We're already allowing our people to go to restaurants... but [face-to-face] education - which is one of the most essential - is not allowed, but non-essential [activities] puwede," Recto said as the Senate tackled the DepEd's proposed P563-billion 2021 budget in plenary.
"What about in areas na walang COVID naman? Why not just allow students to enter, go back to the classrooms?" he asked.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, who sponsored the DepEd's budget, said she shares the same view, and would even allow his 10-year-old son to attend physical classes provided that the number of students is limited and that the environment is safe.
"These things can be done but we have not moved forward," she said noting that the DepEd has an "open mind" about the resumption of physical classes but still needs to get the approval from a task force on COVID-19.
"I have hiked up mountains that aren't even accessible to vehicles... In these villages, they are not allowed to go to school and yet their neighbor is their teacher. They are playing with their friends there... so i hear you. That is my view. There are areas that should be able to do this," she said.
The Philippines and Kenya are the only 2 countries that have not resumed face-to-face classes, Cayetano said, but noted that some countries are already reconsidering the policy "because of the surging number of COVID-19" cases.
Students have been forced to learn at home using printed modules and lessons delivered through television, radio or the internet after President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said students would not be allowed to come to school unless there is already an available COVID-19 vaccine.