President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte during his nation address regarding the COVID-19 late Monday evening. (Photo screenshot from PTV live broadcast)

President Rodrigo Duterte said classes in the Philippines should only open if a vaccine to protect students against COVID-19 has been developed.

In a late Monday night public address, President Duterte said it will be useless to discuss the opening of face-to-face classes in August if a vaccine has not yet been developed as it will only “spell disaster” for students.

“I will not allow the opening of classes na magdikit-dikit ang mga bata. Bahala na hindi makatapos,” he said.

“Unless I am sure that they are really safe. It’s useless to be talking about the opening of classes. Para sa akin, bakuna muna. Kapag nandiyan na ang bakuna, okay na,” Duterte added.

He said he is hoping that a vaccine to provide immunity against the coronavirus disease might be developed before the end of the year.

In his virtual presser Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque further explained that what the president said was as long as the country is not yet in the “new normal”, there will be no face-to-face classroom settings.



“Ano ba ang ibig sabihin ng presidente noong sinabi niyang wala munang pasok habang walang bakuna? Yon po ang sinabi ng presidente — ibig sabihin nyan, habang wala pang bakuna at habang wala pa tayo sa new normal, yong wala ng community quarantine, hindi pa rin tayo magkakaroon ng face-to-face classroom na mga klase,” Roque said.

Roque said if by August 24 the country is already under “new normal”, then classes can be allowed to open.

He said the statement does not mean students will not study since there are “blended learning”.

“Ayon po kay Sec. [Leonor] Briones ng DepEd (Department of Education), gagamitin natin ang television, ang radyo, at ang internet para ipagpatuloy ang edukasyon ng ating mga kabataan,” he said.

In DepEd Order No. 2020-007 issued on May 11 for School Calendar and Activities for School Year 2020-2021 signed by Briones, the opening of classes is set on August 24.

The order said the school opening “will not necessarily mean traditional face-to-face learning in classrooms. The physical opening of schools will depend on the risk severity grading or classification of a locality pursuant to the guidelines of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF).