Bureau of Quarantine OKs arrival of China, Hong Kong ships in Manila – PCG

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 28) — Scores of tourists from Hong Kong and a ship crew from China arrived in Manila City this week amid the spread of novel coronavirus in several areas around the world.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday said the passengers onboard two ships were declared safe by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), which is why they were allowed to alight and go around the city.

The World Dream Cruise Ship, carrying 778 passengers from Hong Kong, arrived in Pier 15 of South Harbor in the Port Area Tuesday morning. PCG spokesperson Captain Armand Balilo said the tourists were authorized to travel, with clearance from the BOQ.

The ship was scheduled to leave Manila for Subic Tuesday night, but the PCG said the trip has been cut short – it will head back to Hong Kong instead. The PCG did not disclose why, but Subic Mayor Jonathan Khonghun earlier asked the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to temporarily stop accepting cruise ships until the coronavirus threat has been "totally managed and controlled."

Meanwhile, the second ship "MV Ligulao" from Lianyungang, Jiangsu in China arrived on Monday and was set to leave Tuesday afternoon. Lianyungang is around 900 kilometers from Wuhan — the ground zero for novel coronavirus. Balilo said the crew of MV Ligulao didn't alight the cargo vessel.

"Upon coordinating with the PCG port state control officers at Pier 15, they confirmed that both vessels were cleared and declared safe by the Bureau of Quarantine during mandatory inspections," the PCG spokesman said.

The Mayor of Olongapo also appealed to the SBMA to temporarily stop accepting cruise ships "until the threat has been controlled." Mayor Rolen Paulino Jr. said various cities worldwide have implemented similar lockdowns in response to the disease.

"Let us please err in the side of caution and put primacy in the health and safety of the residents and workers of Subic Bay Freeport Zone and the city and municipalities surrounding it," he said in a letter to SMBA Chair Wilma Eisma on Tuesday.

SBMA earlier said it was not advised by Health Secretary Francisco Duque to stop the entry of the ships, especially because a heightened alert status was placed in sea ports and airport in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, which regularly hosts cruise ships plying the Southeast Asian route.

Health Undersecretary and Spokesperson Eric Domingo said there is strict screening of all passengers before they board and en route to the Philippines. He said the tourists will be screened again when they arrive in Subic.

"Ang okay sa cruise ship, before sila umalis ng Hong Kong, na-screen ang mga pasahero. While they're en route to the Philippines may quarantine officer on board, chinecheck sila isa-isa. Kung may sakit, hindi naman sila pabababain ng barko and they will only be cleared if everybody is healthy," he said.

The deadly new coronavirus has claimed the lives of 106 people and infected over 4,500 in mainland China less than a month after it was discovered in Wuhan. There are now eight recorded cases in Hong Kong.

The Philippine Immigration Bureau on Tuesday ordered the suspension of "visa upon arrival" issuance to Chinese nationals amid the spread of the novel coronavirus in other parts of the world. However, it clarified there is no order stopping Chinese nationals from entering the country.

There are no confirmed cases of the fast-spreading novel coronavirus in the Philippines.