Malacañang on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte wanted population protection to be achieved first before allowing face-to-face classes.

In a virtual presser, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte was taking into consideration vaccination rates, risk classifications and the economy for the resumption of onsite classes amid the pandemic.

“Ang sabi ni presidente, baka i-consider na niya ang pilot at least kapag marami na ang nabakunahan,” Roque said.

Roque reported that while Metro Manila, the center of the country’s economy, was close to achieving population protection, other areas in the country were lagging behind in vaccination.

“Sa Metro Manila po, papunta na tayo sa 50 percent. Bagama’t sa buong Pilipinas po talaga kinakailangan humabol iyong mga ibang rehiyon dahil outside of Metro Manila, ang pinakamataas na pong porsiyento na nabakunahan ay diyan po sa (Cordillera Administrative Region),” he said.

The government is prioritizing NCR Plus 8, which consists of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Pampanga, Batangas, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao, in its vaccination drive.

“Pero papunta na po tayo [sa pag-resume ng face-to-face classes] dahil mayroon naman talagang mga lugar na napakatagal ng MGCQ. Baka pupuwede doon sa mga lugar na iyon, pero hayaan po muna nating magkaroon ng kumpiyansa ang ating presidente na hayaan ito,” Roque said.

In an Aug. 25 press release, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said that the Philippines was only one of five countries that have yet to resume in-person classes since the pandemic began.

“While new variants are causing a rise of infections, UNICEF is advocating for a phased reopening of schools, beginning in low-risk areas. This can be done on a voluntary basis with proper safety protocols in place,” it said.

The UNICEF called on the Philippine government to focus on three key priorities for recovery in schools: targeted programs to bring all children and youth back in school, effective remedial learning to help students catch up on lost learning and support for teachers to address learning losses and incorporate digital technology into their teaching. John Ezekiel J. Hirro