/ 24 December 2021

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday urged the Department of Education, Department of Health and Department of Social Welfare and Development to uphold the safety and welfare of children in ‘Odette’-hit areas.

Aside from providing child-friendly spaces, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture stressed the urgency of looking after children’s health, nutrition, and psychosocial needs, among others.

The senator also emphasized the need to provide health and sanitation kits to children amid the continuing threat to public health.

“Hinaharap ng maraming mga kabataan ngayon ang pinagsamang panganib na dulot ng pandemya at pinsala ng bagyong Odette. Mahalagang matutukan natin ang pangangailangan nila pagdating sa kalusugan at kaligtasan, kabilang na ang ligtas na pagpapatuloy ng kanilang edukasyon at iba pang mga serbisyo,” Gatchalian said.

He added that rehabilitation efforts should also focus on the resumption of education services.

With the DepEd eyeing the expansion of limited face-to-face classes in January next year, the safety of schools in ‘Odette’-hit areas should also be prioritized, the senator said.

Under the 2021 General Appropriations Act, P2 billion was allotted to the DepEd’s Quick Response Fund, which serves as a stand-by fund for the replacement, reconstruction, rehabilitation or repair of school buildings and facilities.

The QRF may also be used for the printing and reproduction of damaged learning modules and materials.

Around 15 million learners in 35,698 schools were affected by the recent typhoon and 671 schools are being used as evacuation centers.

Gatchalian has pushed for the establishment of permanent evacuation centers in every city and municipality to avoid the use of schools as evacuation centers.

In 2019, he filed Senate Bill 747 or the Evacuation Center Act, which aims to construct a permanent evacuation center in every city and municipality.

Gatchalian also filed Senate Bill 1565 or the Education in the Better Normal Act to strengthen education in times of emergencies.

The bill aims to guide the reopening of public and private basic education institutions in times of calamities, public health emergencies, civil unrests, and crisis situations that disrupt classes.