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Opinion

Advance notice please

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Given the fact that President Rodrigo Duterte has already given us a “heads up” on the possibility of imposing stricter quarantine measures in the event of a Delta variant community transmission, may we humbly request all officials involved in the matter to please be kind and considerate enough to give the public advance notice, such as a week or two, in order to prepare for whatever lockdown or restrictions may be imposed.

This request is on behalf of the thousands if not millions of workers who could be caught unawares and with no emergency funds for a two- to four-week lockdown if not longer. Such an advance notice would also help people to plan their movements and travel in advance so they don’t end up becoming “Locally Stranded Individuals” or LSIs who spend all their money to buy tickets for a plane or a boat trip as well as the mandatory RT-PCR test that costs several thousand pesos as required by LGUs and then end up denied passage or grounded at some terminal. Officials should also bear in mind that all RT-PCR tests and tickets are bound by a time line or date and many people who have been caught unawares by sudden lockdowns or quarantines end up penniless at piers and airports and some even homeless after leaving their employers or businesses closing down as per lockdown announcements.

Other victims of sudden lockdowns are people going into or coming out of hospitals, clinics, rehab, therapy and the like. Many folks go into the NCR because most of their doctors or hospitals are in Metro Manila. Another set of victims and potential LSIs are people applying for passports and other official documents as well as folks working on employment for abroad. After the announcement of the presence of the Delta variant in the Philippines, it was good that Sec. Harry Roque stated that there is a great possibility of new and stricter measures to combat the variant. Having done so, I strongly suggest that the IATF decide what those measures will be and if there will be a lockdown or if travel restrictions will be imposed, please give people time to get back to where they came from, where they are headed to and time enough to find supplies and cash to last them for the duration of the lockdown. It is the very least that the IATF can do for people who have to sacrifice once more for the sake of all.

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“A dream without a goal is just a wish. A goal without a plan is just a dream.”

There are so many goals and wishes floating around the country but, as the quotation points out, unless we put a plan together and work towards the goal, anything we have in mind is simply a wish. Take, for instance, all the talk about face-to-face classes from grade school, middle school and college. Most of the effort on the subject has been talk and concepts but not something that is all encompassing, practical and starts with things that can be done or achievable. I recently saw a report from Singapore where 650,000 senior high school students and proctors are scheduled to participate in the National College Entrance Examinations. Instead of just focusing on how the examinations are to be done safely, the authorities actually scheduled a special vaccination program for the 650,000 people. By doing so, the test takers and proctors will have a high measure of safety against COVID-19 in addition to all the health and safety measures to be undertaken in the test sites.

While speaking with Senator Win Gatchalian who is the chairman of the Senate committee on education, I raised the fact that we could copy the Singapore model and start a dedicated vaccination program for colleges and universities as well as all connected teaching staff and personnel. Instead of relying on the A1 to A5 system that does not cover college students, or effectively reach them, the CHED in cooperation with the IATF/DOH could launch a National Collegiate Vaccination program of the Philippines.

Under the system, all enrollees or enrolled college students will be sent to an authorized vaccination facility or health care provider or even registered GPs like they do in Europe and get their COVID-19 vaccinations there. If the CHED or DOH want to be conservative about it, they can put up pilot colleges or start with junior and senior college students who are the most in need of face-to-face classes.  We need to start somewhere and unless the colleges and universities, both private and public, start pushing buttons, all we will ever arrive at is more talk and the dreams of Juan Tamad.

Don’t wait for government to tell you when or how to get education rolling, we need to copy what the PBA and the professional volleyball teams did. They got together, recognized the need to get back on the hard court, consulted different experts, found people who would lobby for them and worked on different models and templates until they came up with something acceptable to the IATF.

The colleges and universities should not just focus on the mere opening of schools and face-to-face classes because all that can be taken away at the first sign of infections in schools. They have to work and push for the vaccination of all enrolled students and faculty members who will be personally interacting with students. They have to push for a special program where the government will give them vaccines for their students and teachers or for the government to allow colleges and universities to purchase those vaccines on behalf of their students. If we allow the private sector to purchase vaccines why not colleges and universities?

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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