3 FEBRUARY 2020, MANILA—The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) further tightened its noose in all ports, banning the disembarkation of vessel crews while docked at any PPA-controlled ports.
PPA likewise canceled all visitation privileges given to relatives of Filipino seafarers to board as well as boarding privileges of non-government organizations extending emotional and spiritual help to seafarers.
PPA made the decision in order to protect Philippine borders from further contamination with the deadly Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease (nCoV ARD). On Sunday, the Philippines recorded the first nCoV death outside of China.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said an advisory to mariners and vessels including all port stakeholders have already been issued and the measure is now implemented.
“Not only the passengers coming from Chinese territories should be barred from disembarking, but we should also disallow vessel crews which recently called in any China port,” Santiago said.
“It is also a practice in the country that relatives of Filipino seafarers are allowed visitation rights, as well as several institutions giving moral, spiritual and emotional support to anxious seafarers, this too is temporarily suspended,” Santiago stressed.
However, vessels calling at any Philippine port more than 14 days after calling at any China port, shall be allowed without any restrictions, Santiago added.
To ensure that this is implemented, a special team shall be deployed to monitor the movements of personnel and people inside the port. PPA is also coordinating closely with the Office for Transportation Security and the Maritime Industry Authority as well as agents of ships calling in the Philippines to issue parallel directives within their jurisdiction.
Last Friday, the PPA adopted stringent prevention measures in PPA-controlled ports, which include among others, general thermal scanning to individual scanning which checks if a passenger reaches a certain body temperature level.
As early as the first report of an outbreak in China involving the nCoV, the agency has immediately put into place frontline defense against the possible entry of the virus in the country via the ports.
PPA is also in close coordination with Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security vessel boarding teams so that essential information that may need swift action could be provided to the ground personnel.
The agency has likewise started to establish dedicated nCoV Malasakit HelpDesk to facilitate the processing of reports for possible victims. Face masks and sanitizers shall also be distributed to frontline employees.
“We recognize the dilemma of our seafarers and the difficulty that they face while at sea, but we also have to guarantee the safety of those offshore. Rest assured that everything will be reinstated when this nCoV ARD scare is over,” Santiago said.
“Right now, we just have to work together to protect one another and deeper understanding of the situation is expected from all of us,” Santiago stressed.