MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Education (DepEd) said Tuesday the hospitalization and treatment expenses of its personnel, including teachers, who get infected with COVID-19 can be covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
"All government employees are covered by the PhilHealth insurance, and all medical, hospitalization [or] treatment needs of DepEd personnel can be covered by the said health insurance," said Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla.
Sevilla earlier said the treatment and hospitalization expenses of teachers for the new coronavirus disease cannot be covered by the department since it was not included in the budget law.
Only the Department of Health (DOH) has the mandate to use government funds for hospitalization and treatment, said Sevilla, adding that the matter should be raised with the Department of Budget and Management and Commission on Audit.
"Even if we want to assist and support our employees, we don’t have budget cover and authority to use DepEd budget for such," she said.
DepEd officials, however, have made voluntary contributions for an "internal budget" used to give assistance to personnel that have contracted the respiratory disease.
Sevilla said the DepEd has partnered with the DOH and local government units for a referral system for DepEd employees "needing care and monitoring due to [COVID-19]."
She added that the DepEd can use its budget for supplies in the implementation of minimum health standards in schools and offices.
"We use our budget to ensure safety and protection of our learners, teachers, personnel and stakeholders," she said.
The Teachers' Dignity Coalition, meanwhile, said teachers became more anxious after the DepEd admitted it could not use funds to cover treatment expenses.
"If they can never assure that they will care for the teachers, how could they assure that the system is ready?" the group said, also questioning the department's readiness to start classes by Aug. 24.
The DepEd has yet to provide figures on the number of personnel that have tested positive for COVID-19 but teachers' groups have reported cases across the country.
The PhilHealth is being investigated by an inter-agency body and lawmakers due to allegations of widespread corruption in the state-run firm.
On Tuesday, the Philippines recorded a total of 139,538 confirmed COVID-19 cases after the health department, of which, 68,794 are active.