By Merlina Hernando Malipot
Amid the continued threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Education (DepEd) reminded both teaching and non-teaching personnel to prioritize their health and safety above all else.
Undersecretary for Administration Alain Del Pascua, in an interview, said that the department has revoked all official travel orders issued to its personnel and learners – particularly to countries with confirmed cases of the COVID-19. Personal travel was also “highly discouraged” by the department.
Despite this, Pascua noted that some personnel with scheduled trips abroad may be facing a dilemma whether to push through or not. “We understand that they might have spent money the reservation in the hotels and others but if we look at the consequence and the risk of exposure – it is definitely bigger,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“I think, if they are concerned about the money they have spent for paying for the travel, they should just consider is as a lost opportunity,” Pascua said. “I think it’s best not to push through, anyway you have already paid for it,” he added.
Pascua reminded personnel – who might be having a hard time dealing with arranged travel expenses – not to put their safety at risk. “It will become difficult if they push through and when they come back, they will bring along the disease with them,” he said. “Remember, you are not only putting yourself at risk due to the virus but also the lives of your family members,” he added.
Earlier, Pascua said that DepEd is investigating personnel for possibly violating the travel protocol set by the department as a response to the COVID-19. At least four public school teachers and one Public School District Supervisor (PSDS) in Dipolog City are being probed for possible violation of the travel restrictions and limitations.
Citing a report from the Office of the City Mayor of Dipolog City, Pascua noted that there were 15 individuals who went to Seoul in South Korea from Feb. 22-25 and returned to the Philippines on Feb. 26 via Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu. “Of the 15 reported by the city mayor who went to Korea, eight (8) are teachers, one is supervisor and six (6) are learners,” he said. Out of these 15 individuals, DepEd has identified at least four of its personnel – three teachers and one supervisor.
Pascua said that if these personnel have not shown any approved travel order, then they “might be liable to sanctions.” For DepEd, he noted that “all travel authorities should be approved by the Secretary and delegated to regional directors.”
Meanwhile, DepEd is still monitoring the said personnel and learners. Based on the summary of referred suspected cases as cited in its COVID-19 Situational Report as of March 03, DepEd noted that 8 teachers, 1 supervisor and 6 learners in Dipolog City are currently on a mandatory 14-day quarantine since arrival from South Korea on Feb. 26.
While the said learners and DepEd personnel have “no signs and symptoms” of COVID-19, they were ordered by the Division Office to “self-quarantine.” DepEd noted that “some of them took the Manila-Dipolog air travel while some landed in Cebu and travelled via ship to Dipolog.”
Other referred suspected cases learners and personnel that were reported to DepEd earlier have already been issued with medical clearance by their respective health units. Pascua also noted that next memorandum to be issued by the DepEd Task Force COVID-19 will include “sanctions on those who will violate the existing travel protocol.”