Senator urges Customs to release laptops, cellphones for online learning
MANILA, Philippines — A senator has urged the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to release the smuggled gadgets it has collected over the years, specifically laptops, computer units, cellphones and tablets which students may use for distance learning or blended learning schemes.
This move, Senator Imee Marcos said on Thursday, is possible since the agency has already donated a lot of smuggled vehicles to law-enforcement agencies, instead of destroying it.
Marcos’ statement comes amid concerns that the education sector, as well as students and teachers themselves are not ready for distance learning or online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The BoC generously donated almost 800 smuggled vehicles to the police, military and other government agencies last July. Why can’t it solve the worries of thousands of poor students by donating confiscated electronic gadgets?” she asked.
“A single cellphone or laptop would be a huge boon to a mother struggling to buy food, pay electric bills, and now access online,” she added.
The senator, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, noted that the influx of smuggled devices may likely increase as more people and companies shift to work-from-home schemes, while students are also in need of such gadgets.
“Instead of their disposal or auction, smuggled items can be donated by the government 15 days after they still remain unclaimed by their importers, following a notice of pending forfeiture,” Marcos added.
She noted that not all families can actually afford to buy laptops, more so maintain a stable internet connection.
“A family with three children would need upwards of Php25,000 to buy two laptops, install an upgraded internet connection, and require one parent to dedicate a minimim of four hours a day to overseeing their childrens’ education,” Marcos said.
Several youth sectors have been calling for an academic freeze, which is to suspend school year 2020 to 2021 to allow families economically affected by the pandemic to recover first, and those sick to focus on healing.
Due to the lack of appropriate gadgets for students, various groups including the Office of the Vice President launched donation drives collecting used but still functioning laptops, which will then be given to in need and deserving students.
With less than a month before schools re-open, some students are not yet enrolled while some are worrying about how they can attend online classes. In worse scenarios, students have resorted to self-harm amid frustration over the current educational system.
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