'New normal'

Senator Sonny Angara is looking forward to hearing the administration’s plans for all the sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in tomorrow's SONA.

With no end in sight for the pandemic, Angara said it would be interesting to hear the government’s roadmap for the rest of the year and the year ahead.

“As we open up from various stages of quarantine I would like to hear more on the new normal or next normal in terms of our children’s education since we have over 20 million  of our children in schools,” Angara said.

The Department of Education has set the opening of classes on August 24 with a mix of face-to-face and distance learning.

There will be limited face-to-face classes in areas deemed as low-risk for COVID-19 and in schools that are able to meet the minimum health standards.

For these limited face-to-face classes, Angara said the DepEd should proceed with extreme caution because based on the experiences of countries such as China and France, which opened up their schools too soon, “there was a second wave and the schools were one of the super spreaders of the virus.”

Angara aired his support to distance or hybrid types of learning, but said the government must do its part to ensure that the entire student population has access to all the digital tools needed and that reliable internet access is available in all areas of the country.

On the health front, Angara said he wants to hear the President’s plans on how to improve on what is already being done by the Department of Health and other relevant agencies.

“I would also like to hear if we have improved (or plan to improve) our health systems to have better testing, contact tracing and quarantine facilities nationwide,” Angara said. 

Angara noted that testing for COVID-19 has already shown improvements but it is on the contact tracing front where a lot more work needs to be done.

With regard to labor, Angara said there should be a concrete plan on how to save jobs amidst the impact of the pandemic on businesses.

As chairman of the Committee on Finance, Angara said the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 is ready for approval on third reading.

Just like Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Bayanihan 2 will give the President the flexibility to realign funds in budgets of different agencies for the government’s COVID-19 response.

A total of P140 billion will be allocated for the fiscal stimulus and relief package under Bayanihan 2.