THE Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has imposed a moratorium on field trips and educational tours in all private and public colleges and universities following the bus accident in Tanay, Rizal province that killed more than a dozen students.
During the en banc meeting on Tuesday, CHED officials agreed to impose a moratorium in all higher education institutions.
Commissioner Prospero De Vera called for the moratorium while the accident is being investigated.
Initial police investigation said the students from Bestlink College of the Philippines in Novaliches, Quezon City) were on their way to an educational tour as part of their National Service Training Program in a resort in Tanay when the bus they were riding lost control and rammed into an electric post near Magnetic Hill at Peligrino Farm in Sitio Bayukan, Barangay Sampaloc.
“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 said.
He noted that the conduct of educational tours and field trips among higher education institutions is governed by CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 17, Series of 2012.
“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,” he said.
The tragedy, de Vera said, 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 commission has directed Bestlink to submit an incident report on the matter.
CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said that while schools were allowed to conduct field trips and education tours as part of curriculum enhancement, school officials should ensure the safety of their students.
“The security and safety of students should be of utmost importance to higher education institutions in the conduct of educational tours or field trips,” she said in a statement.
“CHED will study if its prescribed policies and guidelines were met,” she added.
Licuanan said the commission will create a fact-finding team to investigate the Tanay incident and determine if Bestlink committed violations and what sanctions should be imposed on the school.
CHED said it will release Wednesday a memorandum mandating all higher education institutions to temporarily stop the conduct of school field trips and education tours.
On Tuesday, House deputy minority leader Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said authorities should launch a criminal investigation into the bus accident that claimed the lives of 14 students.
“We in Congress want answers. Schools are supposed to provide effective guardianship of their students, and guarantee their safety at all times during academic outings,” Campos said.
“We are definitely counting on higher education and transport regulators, as well as Camp Crame, to ascertain probable culpabilities, and if warranted, to take the appropriate actions against those who may be held liable for negligence,” he added.
The Makati lawmaker said the parties responsible for the loss of young lives face felony and administrative charges, without prejudice to the prerogative of the victims’ families to take civil action.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Campos said.
The students, mostly 18 to 19 years old, were on their way to a National Service Training Program when their rented bus slammed into an electric post on a curved road in Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay.
It was the worst school excursion tragedy since the Aug. 19, 2014 drowning of seven students of Batangas State University (BSU) at the Biak-na-Bato National Park in San Miguel, Bulacan.
The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board suspended the operations of Panda Coach Tourist and Transport Inc., owner of the rented bus involved in the Tanay disaster.
Apart from the 15 fatalities, 44 other students were injured and are being treated in hospitals.