MANILA, Philippines —  It would be best at this point for both public and private schools to observe a homeschooling program as new cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) keep increasing, a lawmaker proposed yesterday. 

Rep. Alfred Vargas of Quezon City said it would be to the advantage of all stakeholders in the education sector to impose a temporary “homeschooling through online education, especially for young children who are more susceptible to infection,” as he stressed the importance of minimizing the risk of spreading the virus in communities. 

“Temporarily closing our schools will help slow down the transmission by reducing human-to-human contact for children. This will also protect the children who are more exposed to unhealthy conditions, as they are frequently engaged in hand-to-mouth activities. We rely on parents to do their primary duty and keep their children safe at home while the threat of the virus exists,” he said.

The former actor also appealed to school administrators to conduct disinfection activities in all their facilities as he expressed support for the postponement of graduation and moving up ceremonies as an additional precautionary measure. 

With the rising number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, Vargas encouraged everyone to promote and observe better hygiene practices, saying “all our efforts combined will help prevent COVID-19 from entering our homes and protect our families from acquiring the disease.”

Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian, chairman of the House committee on trade and industry, warned hoarders who take advantage of consumers. 

“Hoarding is illegal and punishable by a fine or imprisonment. I urge all retailers to immediately restock and resupply their inventory to put to rest any concerns of hoarding. For our consumers, I urge them to remain calm and avoid panic buying of supplies. There is more than enough for everybody,” he said.  

He also urged the Department of Trade and Industry to mobilize its agents, just like what it did during the Taal Volcano eruption, to check on allegations of hoarding. 

Hoarding carries a penalty of five to 15 years in prison and a fine of P5,000 to P2 million.

Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act considers hoarding an illegal act of price manipulation and defines it as “the undue accumulation by a person or combination of persons of any basic commodity beyond his or their normal inventory levels or the unreasonable limitation or refusal to dispose of, sell or distribute the stocks of any basic necessity or prime commodity to the general public or the unjustified taking out of any basic necessity or prime commodity from the channels of reproduction, trade, commerce and industry.”