SEN. Joel Villanueva yesterday batted for a temporary ban on tourists coming from China to prevent the possible spread of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines.
His call was echoed by Senators Francis Pangilinan and Christopher Go, who said the progressive spread of the virus and increasing number of deaths should prompt Philippine health and immigration authorities to preemptively ban visitors from Wuhan, if not from the most affected provinces of China.
While the Health Department has not confirmed a case of the rapidly-mutating deadly disease, Pangilinan said it is best to be more proactive especially since the country may not be able to contain a full-blown epidemic.
The Labor Department, meanwhile, said it is mulling the possibility of imposing a deployment ban to China.
“It is under study,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said, saying the move may prove unwise in the long run.
Blas Ople Center head Susan Ople agreed with Bello that immediately imposing a deployment ban to China would be unwise.
Instead, Ople said it would be good for the DOLE to coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Health before making a decision.
“In crisis like this, it’s best to defer to our best medical experts and our diplomatic posts,” Ople said.
Villanueva said it is not advisable for Filipinos based in Wuhan to come home for fear that they might carry the virus. In case Filipinos there are repatriated, Villanueva suggested that they undergo quarantine in an isolated island just like what authorities did during the Ebola virus scare in 2014.
He also said that authorities must check on the arrival yesterday of two Chinese ships, including a cruise ship carrying 700 passengers from Hong Kong. The other vessel docked last Monday from Lianyungang, Jiangsu, China.
“We all know that there certain procedures followed in quarantine procedures. But is it right that the passengers be allowed to alight from the ship? As the saying goes ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ that’s why we should cancel all cruise ship visits from China,” he said
Coast guard spokesman Capt.Armand Balilo said the cruise ship had been scheduled to proceed to Subic but that part of the trip had been canceled. The ship leaves tomorrow for Hong Kong.
The possibility of a deployment ban comes as the number of confirmed 2019-nCoV cases continued to rise worldwide.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said it is already coordinating with the DOH regarding the 2019-nCoV.
According to OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, they are seeking guidance from the DOH on how OFWs can handle the threat of the 2019-nCoV.
“We are communicating with the DOH regarding preventive measures to help our OFWs avoid and cope with the outbreak in China,” said Cacdac.
Ople asked the government to put premium on the OFWs in Wuhan as well as health workers handling confirmed 2019-nCoV cases in any part of the world.
“Help the OFWs in Wuhan. Help based on needs assessment to be done by our Philippine Post, again, in close coordination with DOH,” she said.
“They should discuss the welfare and protection guidelines for OFWs in the medical field, who may be tasked to handle frontline services in hospitals with confirmed novel coronavirus cases. What should be the protocol? Can these workers refuse without suffering administrative repercussions?” added the OFW advocate. – With Gerard Naval and Noel Talacay