The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday said there is no mass testing for teachers before the school year opens on August 24, but testing protocols are in place for those who may be "required" to be tested.
"Yung testing protocol na nakalagay sa ating Department Order No. 14 ay hindi tinatawag na mass testing. Ito po ay tinatawag na required health standards na sinusunod sa ating mga eskwelahan, sa ating mga opisina at ang protocol po rito ay nakasaad kung sino ang dapat i-test at kung paano magpo-proceed ang testing na ginagawa," Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said in a Palace briefing.
"'Yun din pong ating testing protocol ay in coordination with the Department of Health and local government units kaya po ang procedure at gastos para doon sa testing ay doon po nakapaloob sa Department of Health at saka sa local govetment units," she added.
DepEd's role is to refer those who need to undergo COVID-19 tests based on the DOH guidelines, and to trace their contacts, Sevilla said.
The DepEd has taken up the matter of mass testing after Vice President Leni Robredo called for such, in a bid to protect the educators before classes begin on August 24.
Based on DepEd's Department Order No. 14 S. 2020, "COVID-19 testing of returning personnel and learners shall not be a condition to their return to offices and schools."
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, meanwhile, said the department is taking all necessary precautions to protect teachers while they roll out distance learning.
"Ang mga teacher natin hindi pa naman pumapasok lahat. We ask them to help out sa pag-trace ng students sa enrollment, pero sa mga lugar na talagang matinid ang COVID hindi naman namin sila pinapayagan," she said.
"We're doing everything to protect them and also protect the children as well," she added.
Briones also addressed the suggestion of Robredo to realign P29 billion from the DepEd's rehabilitation of school buildings budget to fund distance learning and to provide hazard pay to teachers.
She underscored that the DepEd has been providing hazard pay and special hardship pay to teachers even before the pandemic hit the country.
"Hindi naman lahat exposed sa hazards na sinasabi ninyo. Halimbawa, sa mga zero COVID there would probably be very minimal. You have islands, you have mountain schools," she said.
"May standards 'yan, may policy 'yan. Hindi natin sasabihin na everybody gets hazard pay but nire-review 'yan only in consultation with the Department of Budget and Management," she added. — BM, GMA News