âNo order to ban Chinese from Philippinesâ
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday urged Filipinos in China to follow rules enforced by the Beijing government for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV, whose origins have been traced to Wuhan City.

‘No order to ban Chinese from Philippines’

Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang sees no need to bar Chinese – even those from Wuhan – from entering the Philippines even as the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has suspended the issuance of visa-upon-arrival (VUA) to Chinese nationals.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday urged Filipinos in China to follow rules enforced by the Beijing government for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV, whose origins have been traced to Wuhan City.

The move followed reports of lockdown in several cities in China, particularly in Hubei province where the deadly virus originated and had already killed dozens.

Chinese tourists in groups usually secure VUAs upon entering the country.

“The Civil Aeronautics Board has already suspended direct flights from Wuhan,” said BI chief Jaime Morente.  “We are now temporarily suspending the issuance of VUA for Chinese nationals to slow down the influx of group tours.”

But he stressed there is no ban on Chinese nationals.

Taiwan immigration authorities, according to an article in the Taipei Times, have cancelled entry permits for 429 people in 24 tour groups from Wuhan.

“We have not received any directive imposing policy changes on Chinese nationals,” said Morente. “But we are taking this proactive measure to slow down travel and possibly help prevent the entry of the 2019-nCov.”

Any change in policy on dealing with the matter, he said, would be made by the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Office of the President, as advised by the Department of Health (DOH).

Morente also said it is the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) which monitors arriving passengers.

“They have put up measures in place to strictly check arriving passengers,” he said.  “They have been very active in giving information to frontline port personnel on how to prevent the transmission of the virus, given the risk of direct contact with possible carriers.

“BI is always ready to assist the BOQ and the DOH in securing whatever information that they need in order to prevent the entry of this sickness in the country,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, two mayors in Cebu are calling for an outright ban on Chinese tourists.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan said the DOH should consider banning flights from China, while Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella will request the BI to ban Chinese tourists in the city.

In a statement, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said there is no room for complacency as the threat of nCoV virus remains. He said the issue “is something that we cannot look at with a cavalier attitude,” as he called for measures to limit the entry of foreigners, especially Chinese, to keep the country free from nCoV virus.

“The risks at stake are high and we need to act expeditiously to make sure that our country remains virus-free,” Sotto said.

Suspension welcomed

He welcomed the decision of the BI to suspend the issuance of VUA to Chinese visitors.

“It was the best step towards controlling the entry of this virus in our country,” he pointed out.

“It is good news to see that our government is taking a more proactive stance against this fast-spreading novel coronavirus,” Sotto said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan also called for a ban on visitors from Wuhan or other places in China deemed most affected by the contagion.

“While the Philippine health authorities have not confirmed a case of the rapidly mutating deadly disease, it is best for them to be more proactive, especially since the country may not be able to contain a full-blown epidemic given the continuing alert levels for Taal,” Pangilinan said.

He said a total 1,626,309 tourists from mainland China visited the country from January to November 2019 or over 4,800 Chinese tourists every day.

For ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap, any travel restriction for Chinese should also apply to workers of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) earlier ordered all POGOs to impose a 10-day quarantine on all newly hired and returning employees from countries with reported cases of the novel strain of coronavirus. Most POGO workers are Chinese.

“We see the immediate need for POGO operators and service providers to issue a moratorium on hiring new employees and accepting the returning employees from overseas as long as there is a threat of the virus,” Yap stressed.

“We should prioritize the safety of our countrymen. The revenue we get from POGOs will be futile if we will have coronavirus outbreak in the country. We have to prevent the possibility that this virus will enter our country,” he pointed out.

Another ACT-CIS lawmaker Niña Taduran called for more stringent measures in ports of entry.

She specifically urged administrators of all ports of entry to actively inspect passengers, especially those coming from other countries.

“We have recovered from SARS and MERS COV. In fact, we had the lowest number of SARS victims when this epidemic hit the world. We already have a system in place for this and we should just strictly implement it,” Taduran pointed out.

While urging Filipinos to take extra care of their health, she reminded the public to remain calm.

“We know that the novel coronavirus is similar to SARS and MERS-COV, so there is no reason to panic. Just like any other virus, a stronger immune system is the key to beat this. A healthy lifestyle, clean environment and vigilance can help protect us from the virus,” she added.   

Rep. Mike Defensor, for his part, is calling on netizens to stop what he called a hate campaign against Chinese nationals.

“Let’s stop the fake news. Let’s stop the hate campaign. We should not be blaming our brothers in China for this. If at all, we should even be sympathetic to them,” Defensor said. He said his teenage son is a high school student in China.

“It’s unfair, it’s unacceptable. They didn’t want this to happen also,” the Anakalusugan party-list congressman stressed. His son is a fourth year student at Nottingham University in Ningbo, which is two hours away from Shanghai and another two hours from Wuhan.

Sought for comment on the spread of fake news on the issue, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he is not keen on directing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to launch a probe.

“The problem is we don’t really know if these news sprouting everywhere about the coronavirus are fake. The best approach, I think, should be to tell the people to listen to and rely instead on information being released by our health officials,” Guevarra said. – With Robertzon Ramirez, Edu Punay, Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan, Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero, The Freeman

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