Press Release
January 29, 2020

Bong Go supports possible China-PH travel ban and other necessary measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go said on Wednesday, January 29, that he will recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the ban on flights and ship travels between the country and China if it is necessary to prevent the entry of the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV to Philippine shores.

Authorities reported that 132 persons already died of the 2019-nCoV and over 6,000 are infected in mainland China and abroad.

"Kung saka-sakaling kakailanganin ay irerekomenda natin kay Pangulong Duterte 'yan. Araw-araw naman po may inter-agency (coordination). Nakatutok tayo dito, ang ating mga health officials, foreign officials. Antayin lang natin ang kanilang rekomendasyon. Kung sakali, pabor ako diyan para maiwasan po itong pagkalat," Go said during an interview by broadcaster Erwin Tulfo on his show "Tatak Erwin Tulfo" on the radio station Radyo Pilipinas.

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has imposed a ban on flights from and to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus outbreak began in late December. Tourists from Wuhan who visited Boracay were also deported. But flights between other cities in China and the Philippines are still permitted.

In China, certain travel restrictions are in place in the whole Hubei province, while Wuhan City remains on lockdown. As of now, the Chinese government has issued a travel ban in areas around the country for tour groups of Chinese citizens.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has earlier stopped the issuance of visas-on-arrival to Chinese nationals. The DFA eventually temporarily stopped the issuance of visas to travellers from Hubei province, altogether.

"Sa ngayon ay wala na tayong issuance po ng upon arrival visa, di katulad noon na mas maluwag tayo. So ingat tayo, lalo na 'yang mga galing diyan sa Wuhan. Nakaalerto po ang ating awtoridad. Kapag may sumbong lang, tsinetsek agad ng ating health officials," Go said.

The Senator said he agrees with the position of the Department of Health (DOH) on putting some travel restrictions on Chinese visitors entering the Philippines.

"Ingat lang po tayo. Maging alerto tayo sa lahat ng pangyayari. Ayaw natin na pumasok 'yan dito. Si Pangulong Duterte inatasan na ang lahat na tutukan po itong coronavirus," he added.

The Senator urged DOH to strictly impose precautionary measures to protect Filipinos by implementing quarantine procedures when necessary and providing regular advisories to guide the public.

The Senator also said that the government is ready to assist Filipinos in Wuhan who are willing to voluntarily return. "Kung sino ang gustong umuwi dito, nakahanda po ang gobyerno. Inaantay lang ang go signal po ng bansang China kung payagan na nilang (makabalik) po ang mga kapatid natin sa Wuhan."

Pursuant to the issuance of the Resolution by the Inter-agency Task Force, the DFA is now crafting the relevant issuances needed to carry out the recommendations of the Inter-agency Task Force.

The foreign affairs department said that it has been in close coordination with the Philippine consulate in Shanghai regarding the Filipinos staying in Wuhan. The department is expected to release the updated number of Filipinos from Wuhan who expressed intent to voluntarily go home.

The DFA will be announcing that anyone who wishes to voluntarily return home from Hubei can contact the Philippine Consulate in Shanghai to let them know of their desire to return. This announcement will be disseminated through the Filipino community in China and through local social media outlets.

The DFA is expected very soon to have a better idea about the number of Filipinos in Hubei who may opt to return home since not all Filipinos in Hubei may opt to do so. Once they obtain a better idea on the number of voluntary returnees, the DFA will work closely with the Chinese authorities to follow protocols for the voluntary return of Filipinos in Hubei.

According to the DFA, two private charter corporations have signified their willingness to help in the return of Filipinos. Thus, private planes or military planes may be utilized, depending on the final decision.

The DFA also clarified, however, that Filipinos outside Hubei province may still voluntarily return to the Philippines on their own if they wish to do so.

Go for his part also said that the Senate Committee on Health, which he chairs, will conduct a hearing on the matter on February 4. "Magkakaroon po tayo ng pagdinig sa Martes dito sa Senado. Ipapatawag natin ang lahat ng ahensiya ng gobyerno, lahat ng namamahala--for example po, diyan sa airports, ang DFA officials natin, ang ating health officials--kung ano ba ang safety measures na ginagawa nila sa ngayon."

He also reminded Filipinos to take precautionary measures. "Ingat tayo parati, at ito namang mga airports at seaports, meron tayong thermal scanners. Sana naman po hindi tayo mahawa dito, hindi 'yan dumating sa ating bansa," he added.

Go earlier asked Filipinos to cooperate with the government's efforts. "Kapag merong kahinahinala, i-report niyo agad sa ating health officials. Sundin niyo ang mga payo nila, at ang mga bawal, huwag niyong gawin. Kung kailangan, maglagay ng face mask. Maghugas tayo palagi ng ating mga kamay," he said.

According to a DOH advisory, severe cases of coronavirus may result in pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney problems and death. DOH has advised the public to wash their hands frequently, avoid contact with live animals, drink plenty of water and make sure that food being consumed are cooked properly.

DOH also advised the public to avoid those who have cough and colds and to always cover one's mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing to stop the possible spread of viruses. Those with flu-like symptoms are also advised to consult a doctor.

Go further advised the public to take the threat seriously and cooperate with authorities in order to ensure that Filipinos will not be affected by the virus.

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