SPONSORSHIP SPEECH: An Act Amending Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7797

SPONSORSHIP SPEECH: An Act Amending Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7797

Sponsorship Speech

Senate Bill No. 1541 / Committee Report No. 87


Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 3:00 PM Session Hall, Senate of the Philippines


Delivered by Hon. Win Gatchalian, Senator of the Republic:


Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, good afternoon to you all.


The measure I am sponsoring today is in substitution of Senate Bills 1438, 1452, and 1457, filed respectively by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Joel Villanueva, and Senator Francis Tolentino. The subject matter of this amendatory legislation is simple, but also quite important in my view as we seek to provide the National Government more flexibility in managing the school calendar amid the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Allow me to explain briefly.


Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7797, passed in 1994, mandates that the Secretary of Education shall set the start of the basic education school year sometime between the first Monday of June and the last day of August. Under the usual circumstances, this 11 to 12-week window provides enough flexibility for the government to adjust the class schedule due to any issue that might arise.


Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put the entire country under the most unusual of circumstances. The proposed opening of the 2020-2021 school year on August 24 has been opposed by those who fear that the physical opening of our schools may cause a spike in COVID- 19 cases among school-aged children.


Marami pong mga magulang ang nangangamba na baka ‘pag pinayagan nilang pumasok sa eskwelahan ang kanilang mga anak ay hindi malayong mahawa sila ng peligrosong sakit na ito.


Kaya marami sa kanila ang nagsasabing mas maigi pang kahit ipagpaliban muna ng isang taon ang pag-aaral ng kanilang mga anak, kaysa isakripisyo ang kanilang kalusugan at kaligtasan.


As it stands now, Republic Act No. 7797 calls on the Secretary of Education to start classes by August 31, 2020, even if the Department of Health or the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases would recommend delaying the start of classes to protect the health and welfare of our children.


The bill I am sponsoring today amends Section 3 of RA 7797 to empower the President, upon recommendation of the Secretary of Education, to set a different date for the start of the school year. The date of the start of the school year may be changed for the entire Philippines, or any part thereof, which is under a State of Emergency, Calamity, or similar occurrence.


COVID has massively affected the education sector – making it the fourth among the most impacted sectors in the country. In fact, further moving the school opening beyond August is a decision with even more complicated implications in the education sector, not only on the health and safety of the learners and their parents, but also on the livelihood of private school teachers and the survival of the private education sector. It is in contemplation of this and similar situations that this bill proposes it be the President himself, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education, who shall make this critical decision.


The immediate effect of this legislation would be to empower the President to move the start of the school year 2020-2021 to September or even later, in the event that public health authorities would recommend the postponement of the school year in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. This way, the government will have free rein to make a science-based decision on the school opening issue.


In later years, this law would give the President and the Department of Education sufficient flexibility in adjusting the start of the school year when other emergencies or calamities would so require.


Mr. President, mahalaga ang pagpasok sa eskwelahan ng mga bata pero higit na mahalaga ang kanilang kaligtasan at kalusugan.


Kaya po bigyan natin ng pagpapasya ang Pangulo ng Pilipinas at ang Kalihim ng Edukasyon upang baguhin ang petsa ng pasukan sa panahon ng pandemya na walang kasiguruhan sa kaligtasan at kalusugan ng kabataang Pilipino.


For these reasons, I join the Senate President and Senators Villanueva and Tolentino in seeking the support of this esteemed chamber for the passage of this legislation.

Thank you, Mr. President.