Get Real

Where’s the concern for Filipinos?

It seems the Philippines is completely out of step with the rest of the world (RoW) insofar as its actions on preventing the spread of the 2019-nCoV.

Only consider: Russia has closed its 4,200-km or so border with China, in spite of its newly warmed relationship with that country. So has the much poorer country, Mongolia, which shares something like 4,600 km of border. That’s their response to the 2019-nCoV—virtually locking China out.


What does the Philippines do? Two days ago, a Xiamen Air flight from China was allowed to land in Davao, with 79 Chinese passengers allowed to disembark after undergoing “strict tests,” which as far as can be surmised, consisted of being tested for fever, and for exhibiting flu-like symptoms (this according to Bureau of Quarantine [BOQ] Davao head Dr. William Lim).

Further, two cruise ships, one from Hong Kong and another from mainland China, docked in Manila carrying a complement of over 1,400 passengers in total. These passengers were also “cleared and declared safe” by the BOQ. One supposes that the same above-mentioned “strict tests” were applied.


The Hong Kong cruise ship was not allowed to proceed to Subic, thanks to the intervention of Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino Jr., who wrote Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chair Wilma Eisma: “Let us please err on the side of caution and put primacy on the health and safety of residents and workers…”, and stated that a number of cities in the RoW had done the same thing.

Good on you, Mayor Paulino. Both ships left after two days. But two days is a long time as far as contagion is concerned. Let’s analyze this, Reader. Here is on the one hand, the Department of Health (DOH), national, assiduously tracking down 29 suspected carriers of the 2019-nCoV all around the Philippines. On the other hand, here is the BOQ, which is under the DOH, merrily clearing 1,500 Chinese citizens, after “strict tests” to roam around the NCR for two days.

The BOQ official in Subic, Joseph Macaraeg, even went so far as to say that there was no need to ban cruise ships as “safety protocols are in place at the Port of Subic.” Isn’t there some kind of disjuncture there? While we’re at it, the BOQ, in applying those tests, seems to have disregarded the Chinese government’s warning that asymptomatic persons (persons without any symptoms) can still be carrying the 2019-nCoV.

So taking temperatures and checking for flu symptoms may be necessary, but are definitely not sufficient actions. We still don’t have enough info. And I must say that I am disappointed with the stand of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on banning Chinese travel to the Philippines while the 2019-nCoV has not been contained. He is not in favor of this move because there may be “political and diplomatic repercussions.”

Additionally, he says, “the confirmed cases are not limited to China.” That sounds like an echo of Sen. Bong Go, who in turn is an echo of the President. Tchah.

Secretary Duque, shouldn’t you be putting, as Mayor Paulino put it, primacy on the health and safety of our people? When Russia and Mongolia closed their borders with China, did they give one damn about political and diplomatic repercussions? When Israel’s El Al, or Scandinavian Airlines, or Egypt Air, or Turkish Airlines, or British Airways or Germany’s Lufthansa, most or all of which are government-connected, suspended or shut off direct flights to China or Chinese cities, did they care about those same repercussions?

Shouldn’t you be taking a leaf from Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. who has suspended the granting of visas to Chinese tourists at our airports? Why take a leaf from Senator Go?


And if you think it is enough to refuse entry to Wuhan travelers as is the response of President Duterte and Duque, that is ridiculous. Wuhan is on lockdown—by the Chinese government. They can’t go anywhere, anyway. Now for the argument that confirmed 2019-nCoV cases are not limited to China (so it will be unfair to single China out, according to Go).

Frankly, that sucks. As of Friday morning, China has reported 9,000 people affected. The RoW has reported over 80 cases, with only four of these not of Chinese origin. So yes, confirmed 2019-nCoV cases are not limited to China. They only account for 99.1 percent of the cases. China is a big boy, gentlemen. Shouldn’t you be showing at least as much concern for your countrymen?

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TAGS: 2019-nCov, Bureau of Quarantine, China
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