ACT Teachers Partylist Representative and House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro expressed alarm on Thursday, November 3, 2022, over the decision of the Department of Education (DepEd) to allow teachers and students to go maskless during the conduct of in-person classes.

Castro said the wearing of face masks as well as the maintenance of other minimum health protocols should not be optional in schools to ensure the safety of learners and teachers amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The lawmaker said that before allowing the optional use of face masks in schools, the government should address first concerns on overcrowding and poorly ventilated classrooms, the lack of school health facilities and school nurses and the lack of a medical fund for teachers and personnel who will be infected by Covid-19.

“The DepEd should at least implement minimum health standards in schools, especially wearing face masks since it cannot even provide adequate facilities to implement proper social distancing. Cramped classrooms also fail to provide proper ventilation,” she said.

“The government refuses to provide teachers and students adequate funds for free treatment in case of positive cases of Covid-19 in schools, it refuses to provide weekly testing for teachers and school personnel, there are no school nurses or adequate clinics in schools, now it allows the optional wearing of facemasks in schools, removing the bare minimum of health standards in schools to protect teachers and students from the Covid pandemic,” she added.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. earlier issued Executive Order (EO) No. 7, which allows the optional use of face masks indoors except in healthcare facilities, medical transport vehicles and public transportation.

DepEd said schools may adhere to EO No. 7 pending the issuance of a department order regarding the optional use of face masks. (SunStar Philippines)