The two (2) private passenger vessels commissioned by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to serve as temporary quarantine ships are now ready to accommodate returning seafarers and other Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) starting Sunday, 12 April 2020.
This initiative was made possible through the partnership of the DOTr with shipping and logistics company 2GO, which lent two of its vessels in an effort to help in the containment efforts being carried out by the government against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.
Returning OFWs and other repatriates are mandated by health authorities to take a mandatory 14-day quarantine as part of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The quarantine ships provided by 2GO are now docked at Pier 15, South Harbor, Port Area in Manila.
“We have seen the need to step up and help the health sector attend to the needs of our countrymen. As we are expecting more repatriates to return home, we came up with these quarantine ships to serve as their temporary accommodations while they are on forced 14-day quarantine. Alam naman natin na karamihan sa mga ospital ngayon dito sa Metro Manila ay puno na, kaya’t malaking tulong ito para hindi na makadagdag pa sa sitwasyon,” DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
Observing social distancing as ordered by health authorities, one of the ships can accommodate 800 individuals, while the smaller vessel can serve 300 people. These are less than their original capacities.
Inspection of both vessels was also done by the Department of Health (DOH), led by Usec. Mario Villaverde, and Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) Director Roberto Salvador, Jr. to ensure that both ships comply with standard environment controls, hygiene protocols, and other health requirements.
Meanwhile, DOTr Undersecretary for Administrative Affairs Artemio Tuazon clarified that the quarantine ships will be used by those who show no COVID-19 symptoms, and those who have to take the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“Ang silbi ‘ho nitong quarantine ships ay para i-accommodate iyong mga sasailalim sa mandatory 14-day quarantine. Hindi ibig sabihin na may sakit ‘ho sila. Malinaw po na sila lang ‘yung tatanggapin dito. The vessels were also inspected by the DOH and Bureau of Quarantine, and we will make sure that health protocols are strictly implemented,” Usec. Tuazon stressed.
Another COVID-19 response effort being carried out by the DOTr, in cooperation with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), is the setting up of a quarantine facility at the Eva Macapagal Terminal in Manila’s Port Area.
The quarantine terminal, which is intended to treat people showing mild symptoms, will be adjacent to the two docked quarantine ships.
“For the quarantine ships, the PCG has already deployed security personnel to assist in its orderly operation and facilitate the implementation of safety procedures. We will also provide the same assistance once the quarantine terminal will be up and running. Ayon nga ‘ho kay Secretary Tugade, tulung-tulong tayo rito,” PCG Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia said.