2 ‘quarantine’ ships for returning OFWs now in Manila

Two passenger ships, volunteered by a private shipping company for conversion into “quarantine ships”, have arrived at Pier 13 in South Harbor, Manila on Monday.

In a message, Commodore Armando Balilo, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), said the ships, provided by 2GO Travel, will arrive at the port at 2 p.m. and will undergo inspection before being used as quarantine or hospital ships for returning seafarers and other overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

“Magsasagawa ng inspection ang DOH (Department of Health), BOQ (Bureau of Quarantine) at PCG medical personnel (There will be an inspection by the DOH, BOQ, and PCG medical personnel),” Balilo said.

According to a media bulletin from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Sunday, the two ships will have a total capacity of 1,500 patients and will be operational this week.

This, after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) gave the go signal on Monday the DOTr and the PCG’s plan to use quarantine ships as temporary facilities for persons under monitoring (PUMs) as they expect more repatriates to arrive during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

These PUMs include those who have traveled to areas affected by coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and those who show symptoms but have no history of exposure.

“Most hospitals in Metro Manila have already pleaded for help in attending to Covid-19 patients. Some of them can no longer accept more patients due to overcapacity. And that is what we are trying to address here,” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

The PCG, meanwhile, will be responsible for the orderly operations of the quarantine ships and the delivery of effective health care onboard, “subject to standard environment controls, hygiene protocols, as well as maritime safety and security regulations.”

Aside from the two quarantine ships, Balilo said the BRP Gabriela Silang would arrive in the country on Tuesday at 9 a.m., to be used initially as a transport ship, or as a quarantine ship if necessary, after an inspection by the DOH.

In a press release, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) said a total of 327 Filipino seafarers arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 on Sunday from the cruise ships Costa Diadema and Costa Victoria in Italy.

The seafarers will be transported to hotels to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine to avoid further spread of the disease.

A representative from Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, the manning agency in-charge or the repatriated seafarers, said 2,000 more seafarers currently stranded on cruise ships around the world would be repatriated.

Source: Raymond Carl Dela Cruz, Philippine News Agency, April 6, 2020