Duque contradicts Duterte: ‘Safe’ to reopen schools on August 24

Aika Rey

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Duque contradicts Duterte: ‘Safe’ to reopen schools on August 24


Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says minimum health standards should be in place

MANILA, Philippines – Even as President Rodrigo Duterte himself rejected the move, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Tuesday, May 26, that opening classes on August 24 is “safe” as long as health protocols are observed.

Duque made the statement in a Senate health panel hearing, where committee chairman Senator Christopher “Bong” Go asked for his “opinion” on Duterte statement that he would not allow classes to resume until a vaccine is developed.

“Pag-aaralan po nating maigi ito. Sa ngayon, tingin namin, ligtas naman po kung bubuksan natin ang klase by August 24. Kinakailangan po dito, siguraduhin lamang na lahat ng ating minimum standards for health ay nakatalaga,” the health chief said.

(We will study it carefully. For now, we believe that it is safe to open classes by August 24. What we need to do is to ensure that the minimum standards for health are in place.)

Duque also said that online learning can be an alternative to a classroom setting when classes resume in August.

“We will continue to evaluate ‘yung mga bilang ng kaso down to the barangay level, para malaman natin in one particular barangay kung may mga kaso. Dapat ‘yung paaralan doon, kasama sa mga community quarantine,” Duque said.

(We will continue to evaluate the number of cases down to the barangay level, so that we would know whether a particular barangay has cases. If so, then the school there should be part of the community quarantine.)

Duque reiterated the health protocols that schools should implement such as keeping physical distance, frequent washing of the hands, disinfection of classroom, and access to disinfectants.

The health chief added that schools may also adopt temperature checks. “Antemano, meron nang abiso sa mga magulang, na kapag may sakit ang kanilang mga anak, ‘wag na silang pumasok (Beforehand, there should be an advisory to parents that if their children are sick, don’t send them to school.).” 

Under Republic Act No. 7797, a schoolyear should start from the first Monday of June “but not later than the last year of August.”

Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier announced that school year 2020 to 2021 would resume on August 24 – a call approved by the government’s task force on the coronavirus.

During an earlier Senate hearing, Briones said that schools may resume classes physically on the week of August 24 to orient students on how classes will be conducted during the pandemic. After that, Briones said, schools may opt to shift to online learning.

Parents and students criticized DepEd’s decision, as the finances of households had been affected by quarantine policies. Some questioned the soundness of the policy as some households don’t even have access to the internet or to a computer.

Teachers, meanwhile, voiced their concern about putting children and their families at risk.

As of Tuesday, only Cebu City and Mandaue City remain under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Metro Manila, Laguna, Bataan, Angeles City, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Zambales are under modified ECQ, while the rest of the country has shifted to a general community quarantine. – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.