Teachers’ group asks: Where’s COVID-19 loans to help distance learning?

Jun. 18, 2020

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) questioned where the loans for Covid-19 emergency have gone after President Rodrigo Duterte said the government will be looking for money to purchase gadgets intended for distance learning in the upcoming school year.

“We are perplexed to hear the President say we’re out of funds, when other officials boast of new sources of funding on a nearly daily basis. President Duterte himself has repeatedly assured the public that we have sufficient resources to weather the storm, especially since the granting of his emergency powers which gave him huge budgetary control,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said in a statement.

The President said on his briefing last Monday to give the government time to procure the budget to buy radio sets for students in far-flung areas without television, cellphone signals and internet connectivity.

The Department of Education (DepEd) will introduce blended learning for the opening of the school year this August. There will be no face-to-face classes but will provide learning materials for students who have no gadgets.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Congress approved the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that provided emergency powers to the president to handle the pandemic with a P 270 billion fund for his disposal.

But Basilio said it is alarming that the funds “have not been fully accounted, yet he’s already claiming it has run out.”

The group also cited the World Health Organization’s report that the Philippines received a total of $ 130.4 million or P6.5 billion worth of financial aid for COVID-19 response including those coming from private sectors.

“These figures suggest that we have massive funds not only to strengthen our response to the health and socio-economic crisis fueled by the pandemic, but also to adequately provide for all-time essential services such as education,” Basilio pointed out.

The group also questions how does education fit in the Php1.7 trillion Philippine Program for Recovery with Equity and Solidarity (PH-PROGRESO).

The group urged the Duterte administration to fund “the safe and viable return to schools, provide the technological and infrastructure requirements of distance learning, ensure accessible quality education, properly remunerate education frontliners for their service, and aid displaced education workers and needy private schools.” (davaotoday.com)

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