ABOUT 10 million students have registered for the school year scheduled to start in August, according to the Department of Education.

Metro Manila, where coronavirus infections are mostly concentrated, had the second-biggest number of enrollees at 1.4 million, Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones told the Senate basic education committee on Thursday.

Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) had 1.6 enrollees, while Central Luzon had 1.1 million, she said.

“We have already achieved 36.26% of our projected enrollment for 2020,” the Education chief told the Senate committee, which wanted to assess of the pandemic’s impact on the education sector. Enrollment runs from June 1 to 30.

Ms. Briones said the department was bent on opening classes on Aug, 24 even if students can’t go to school yet in the absence of a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier said he did not want classes to start without a vaccine. The presidential palace later clarified that the President was referring to face-to-face classes.

“Right now, his policy stands and as we transition, we will be briefing him from time to time, especially on the state of the development of the vaccine,” Ms. Briones said. “The learning process must continue because there are other ways of learning.”

During the hearing, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian raised concerns about the P8.4-billion budget cut made by the Budget officials on the Education department’s budget.

This included P1.47 billion from the voucher program for private senior high schools, P500 million for the school-based feeding program and P107 million for the special education program.

The P1.47-billion cut from the voucher program means 60,000 beneficiary students will be removed, Mr. Gatchalian said. “My worry is a number of students won’t be able to go to school.”

Education Undersecretary Annalyn M. Sevilla agreed the funding was essential, adding that they would seek to have the budget restored once the government’s fiscal status improves. — Charmaine A. Tadalan