After an early morning arrival Sunday, the 30 repatriated Filipinos including an infant, and the government personnel sent to fetch them began a 14-day quarantine at the Athlete's Village in New Clark City, in Capas, Tarlac.
All safety protocols were being implemented in the government-owned compound, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said, and the Department of Health was ready to address the concerns of the nearby communities which had opposed setting up quarantine facilities near them.
Panelo said the President was disturbed by the nCoV’s impact on the economy after his economic team said the spread of the disease could disrupt tourism and international trade.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia had said the novel coronavirus could cost the country P133 billion if the crisis lasts until December.
China was the Philippines’ second top source for tourists at 1.63 million visitors, second only to South Korea’s 1.8 million.
In the first half of 2019, Chinese tourists spent $979.4 million or about P51 billion in the country.
Government data also showed that China was the country’s top source of imports, accounting for 19.3 percent of the bill in January to November 2019.
China is also the Philippines’ fourth top export market as its purchases accounted for 12.8 percent of the receipts in the same period.
“All of us should hope that we can stop the spread of this disease,” Panelo said.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año on Sunday sought to allay fears of local government officials and residents, saying preventive measures are in place at the Athletes’ Village inside the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.
Año made the assurance as 30 Filipinos from Wuhan City, ground zero of the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease, arrived on board a chartered flight at the Haribon Hangar in Clark Air Base on Sunday.
Upon their arrival, the Filipinos were transferred from the plane into their dedicated buses and brought to the Athlete’s Village, which will be their home for the 14-day quarantine period.
“While we take note of the sentiments of Capas, Tarlac LGU and its residents, the national government has already decided out of necessity and of national interest to use the Athletes Village in NCC,” Año said.
“They are also Filipinos who deserve our help and understanding. This is the time that we must help each other. There is no risk to the residents of Capas, Tarlac. How could that be when they will not even see a glimpse or shadow of our OFWs in the Athletes’ Village,” he said.
The Athlete’s Village was used for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
Capas Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan reportedly appealed to DOH and President Rodrigo Duterte to look for another place for the repatriated Filipinos.
Año, however, said there is nothing to worry about since protective measures have been implemented and those who will be quarantined for 14 days have no symptoms of nCoV.
“Upon arrival, they will be subjected to another screening and anybody that would manifest symptoms will be brought straight to the hospital. In other words, only those persons without symptoms or manifestations shall undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine,” he said.
The DOH, as well as the Bases Conversion and Development Authority earlier, assured that all precautionary measures are in place to ensure the safety and protection of residents in Capas, Tarlac.
The Health department will be in charge of the management of the entire quarantine process for the repatriated Filipinos from Wuhan, a city in central China province of Hubei.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said all DOH hospitals in the region will be in charge of the deployment of medical teams to the quarantine area.
Upon completion of the 14-day quarantine period, the discharge of the repatriated Filipinos will be facilitated by the Overseas Workers Welfare Authority in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
On board three buses, the repatriated Filipinos were brought to New Clark City at 8 a.m., following their arrival by plane.
A five-member medical team accompanied the repatriated Filipinos and the plane crew, which will also undergo the mandatory quarantine.
The DFA made an initial call for the repatriation of the Filipinos in China on Jan. 28.
The DFA earlier said that an estimated 50 Filipinos were expected to take the mercy charted flight from Wuhan City, but only 30 of them boarded the plane, with one child among them.
The repatriated Filipinos did not go through the Clark International Airport terminal but went straight to the Haribon Hangar of the Philippine Air Force.
Dr. Cesar Cassion, head of the Central Luzon Development Medicine in the region said the repatriated Filipinos were safe in New Clark City.
The workers underwent three tests before boarding, during the flight, and upon arrival to screen for any symptom of the virus.
Government officials emphasized that the workers quarantined did not test positive for nCoV but were under observation.
In an interview over dzIQ on Sunday, Panelo said the government will shoulder the costs of tests, medicines, confinement, and all hospital-related expenses for patients being treated in government hospitals and facilities.
He said the 30 Filipinos who just returned home from China’s Hubei province would also receive appropriate care free of charge.
In a post on the town’s Facebook page, Catacutan welcomed the arrival of the repatriated Filipinos, reversing his initial opposition to locating the quarantine facilities within the municipality.
“We in Capas, offer our home, our sympathy, and prayers for the health of our fellow Filipinos and we hope there will already be a permanent solution for the nCoV,” Catacutan said in a statement.
“We Filipinos, always help each other and nothing can change that. Only wrong information can destroy a relationship as strong as what Filipinos have,” the mayor said.
He said the lack of coordination by the national government triggered the opposition to the quarantine facility.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, said a court will have to decide whose interest takes precedence if the town files a legal challenge to the quarantine facility.
“Any official or resident of Capas with interest in business, tourism, investment, or health may file a complaint to enjoin the use of the Athletes’ Village as a quarantine facility,” Guevarra said in a text message sent to reporters.
“But the court will weigh their private or community interests against the wider public health and social welfare considerations. In the law on injunctions, this is known as the doctrine of relative inconvenience,” he said.
Guevarra made the statement after Capas Vice Mayor Rodriguez said that he along with other members of their municipal council are planning to file a petition for a court injunction against the use of New Clark City as a quarantine facility.
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