PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Tuesday announced that the Philippine government is targeting to fully implement in-person classes nationwide by November this year, citing his education chief.
It was Vice President Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio, who heads the Department of Education, who made the proposal during their first Cabinet meeting held earlier in the day, Mr. Marcos told a televised news briefing.
“We talked about Sara’s announcement that we have a plan for full face-to-face by November this year,” he said. “By September, the government will start the phased schooling.”
“So by early November, 100% attendance for the school children,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.
Mr. Marcos said he told the Education department and other agencies to implement the plan quickly. “We are careful but we are always in a hurry.”
In May, the government said about 73% of public schools in the country were already qualified for face-to-face classes.
More than 34,000 schools have been nominated for the face-to-face classes as of May 26. Of these, 33,000 are public schools, while 1,174 are private schools.
The Philippine government had ordered the closure of schools soon after a coronavirus pandemic was declared in March 2020. The country was the last in the world to reopen schools for physical classes.
An increase in infections driven by Omicron subvariants has been recorded in the capital Manila and nearby areas recently, causing alarm for some members of the health sector.
“We still have the capability to handle the new COVID-19 cases,” Mr. Marcos said. “Luckily, we should not look at the number of COVID-19 cases in the same way as we look at them in 2020 and 2021 because this is Omicron and Omicron is different.”
Despite the continuing increase in coronavirus infections and the waning immunity among the vaccinated population, Mr. Marcos has yet to name his secretary for the Department of Health.
At the same briefing, Mr. Marcos said a plan to continue fuel subsidy programs was discussed in the first Cabinet meeting.
The new Philippine leader said he would expand the fuel subsidy for the transport sector to “include the tricycles, which up to now have not been included.”
On June 28, the Interior department under his predecessor announced that more than 617,000 tricycle drivers would be receiving fuel cash subsidy under the agency’s program to address rising fuel prices.
“We talked about funding for additional subsidies,” Mr. Marcos said. “We have enough budget to last for this year and a little bit beyond.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza