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Gatchalian bats for construction of cell sites in public schools

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday urged the telecommunication companies to install cell sites in public schools to ensure internet connectivity and bridge the digital divide in over 42,000 barangays as COVID-19 pandemic heightens the demand for various online services.

The chairperson of the Senate committee on basic education explained that this move would "hit two birds with one stone" as he pointed out that 47,000 out of the total 62,000 schools nationwide are run by the government.

"So bawat barangay merong public school at kung pwede nating patayuan ng cell site at wifi-based station sa bawat public school, sagip na natin ang buong Pilipinas dahil buong barangay ay makakabitan natin ng cell site," Gatchalian said.

"Ang proposal natin sa telecommunication companies ay gamitin ang lupa ng ating mga public school," he added.

The senator underscored that this would help stakeholders in the education sector engage in distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Kung meron sana tayong sapat na imprastraktura, meron tayong internet, meron tayong mga gadgets, hindi magiging problema ‘yung pagtuturo sa mga estudyante, lalo na ngayong kailangan nating mag-shift sa distance learning," Gatchalian said.

Citing records from the Department of Education, Gatchalian said 58% of elementary schools, 80% of junior high schools, and 72% of senior high schools are connected to the internet.

He also mentioned a study of Project BASS or Bandwidth and Signal Statistics which showed that 44% or 20,398 public schools are located six kilometers from the nearest cell site—causing them to have very poor to no internet access at all.

Gatchalian said the proximity of cell sites to public schools must not be more than three kilometers to get a good internet connection.

"Moving forward, kahit wala nang COVID-19, importante ring pagsikapan nating maabot ang bawat isang kabahayan gamit ang internet, at mabigyan natin ang mga bata ng kagamitan, mga gadgets para magamit nila sa pag-aaral," he added.

The senator recently filed Resolution No. 392 which seeks to review the implementation of Republic Act No.10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act and its effect on the various learning institutions in the country.—AOL, GMA News