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CHED commissioner calls for moratorium on school field trips

A Commission on Higher Education (CHED) official on Tuesday called for a moratorium on all field trips and educational tours in all private and public colleges and universities following the tourist bus accident in Tanay, Rizal on Monday which led to the deaths of 15 and left more than 30 others wounded.

Until the investigation on the incident is completed, CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera III said there is a need for such a moratorium.

"I will request the Commission en banc today to immediately issue a directive to all higher education institutions so we can properly investigate this tragedy and review current policies covering field trips," de Vera said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Initial investigation said the bus bearing college students from Bestlink College was bound for a medical and survival training for their National Service Training Program subject when its brakes failed while traversing a curved highway. It then rammed an electric post and a nearby tree along Magnetic Hill in Peligrini Farm, Sito Baykan, Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal.

"While it is true that field trips are essential to give students the opportunity to see and explore new things, enhance their learning experience in a natural setting, and provide for interest-driven and hands on training, the safety of the students on field trips must be ensured at all times by school authorities," de Vera added.

De Vera said the tragedy will serve as a "reminder that we must be very strict in regulating the use of public transportation for school sponsored trips. We must also determine if higher education institutions comply with requirements of safety and whether current policies adequately protect students."

The CHED official reminded that colleges and universities need to inform their regional offices one month before they hold educational tours or field trips.

He added that educational tours and field trips are regulated under CHED Memorandum Order No. 17 which requires: 1) the education tour/field is essential to enhance the curriculum of the course; 2) prior consultation with students are made when there are additional costs involved; 3) the information is included in the Student Handbook and discussed during the student orientation; and 4) risk assessment procedures are discussed with parents.

Officials of Bestlink College have already been instructed to submit an incident report to CHED National Capital Region in order to determine if there were regulations violated, de Vera said.

Meanwhile, the CHED official expressed his grief toward the affected families.

"We share the grief and bereavement of the families who lost their [loved] ones and all those affected by this horrific tragedy. We will expedite the necessary investigation to determine if proper procedures were observed by school authorities, impose the necessary sanctions, if warranted, and determine whether existing policies adequately protect the safety of students," de Vera said.

On the other hand, it was also reported that Bestlink College officials decided to push through with the medical and survival training for the rest of the groups despite the plea of parents.

De Vera deemed the decision of the school's camping trip to continue as insensitive and irresponsible.

"Bestlink College should now cancel the camping activity, bring the students home safely, and provide counseling for the students, their friends and their families," de Vera said. —Marlly Rome Bondoc/KG, GMA News