MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday renewed his push for the government to uphold the welfare of teachers amid the threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Gatchalian made the call following the deaths of five Department of Education (DepEd) personnel in Isabela due to coronavirus infection.
“Habang patuloy ang pagtaas ng mga kaso ng COVID-19 sa bansa, lalong dapat paigtingin ng DepEd ang pag-aalaga sa ating mga gurong isinasakripisyo ang kanilang kaligtasan at kalusugan upang maipagpatuloy ng ating mga kabataan ang kanilang pag-aaral,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
“Kailangang tiyakin sa ating mga guro na may agarang tulong na maipapaabot sa kanila kung sakaling sila ay magkasakit,” he added.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture, said that upholding the welfare of teachers entails the strict enforcement of the alternative work arrangement, the assurance of access to COVID-19 testing, treatment for those who would contract the virus, and the prioritization of teachers in the vaccination program.
DepEd last year assured that its personnel is covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). The Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) also offers the Employees’ Compensation (EC) Program, which provides income, medical, and other health benefits in the event of work-related sickness, injury, or death.
The School Division Office (SDO) in Isabela earlier said that it has reached out to the grieving families to provide urgent assistance and facilitate the expeditious release of benefits. DepEd also said that the infections were acquired through community transmission and not in their line of work.
Teachers’ groups have been calling on DepEd to extend financial assistance to personnel who get sick with COVID-19, claiming that teachers who got infected did not receive financial assistance from the government.
They said that any financial assistance extended to them comes from personal contributions or personal help from some government officials.
Gatchalian also reiterated his push to move up teachers in the COVID-19 vaccination priority list.
Teachers are currently under the B1 category with other social workers.
Gatchalian argued that teachers should instead be in the A4 sector with the frontline personnel of other essential sectors.