The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has put all ports on red alert starting October 30 in preparation for Oplan: UNDAS 2014 and as a precautionary measure against the possible entry of the deadly Ebola virus.
The red alert will be imposed until the end of next week in tandem with similar security initiatives by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).
Heightened alert at all ports as part of the Ebola watch, however, will continue even after the All Saints’ Day holiday.
According to PPA general manager Atty Juan Sta. Ana, despite the very short weekend, a surge in passenger volume is still expected nationwide as a result of All Saints’ Day observation.
“We can’t take for granted the security of our ports. We should always be cautious and alert,” Sta. Ana said. “And with the country already on the lookout to prevent the entry of the deadly Ebola virus (into) our country, strict and constant security measures in our ports will be a deterrent not only against illegal elements but also against the virus.”
“I have already ordered our port managers to take all the necessary measures to reduce the inconvenience (to passengers) and to make sure that our ports are safe at all times,” he explained.
“I also reiterated my earlier directive barring private insurance firms from selling additional insurance cover (to) passengers inside PPA port premises to prevent arbitrary expense for the riding public.”
The action plan under Oplan: UNDAS 2014 includes enhanced security through maximum utilization of walk-through and baggage X-ray machines, walk-through metal detectors, and K-9 units, as well as continued visibility of PPA police and security guards within the port area and around public toilets and bathrooms (PTBs).
PPA also assured passengers of well-ventilated PTBs with clean comfort rooms, nursing stations, and other travel amenities, while round-the-clock medical and passenger assistance counters and passenger help desks will also be provided.
To further enhance public safety, PPA is asking passengers to segregate metallic objects and bladed tools for industry use and declare them so they can be tagged and turned over for safekeeping, then the retrieval later by the owner at the port of destination.
Vessel operators, on the other hand, are advised to inform passengers if they have to stop issuing tickets for whatever reason and to tell affected passengers when they can be accommodated in succeeding trips.
In an advisory last August, Marina urged all ship owners, operators, managers, manning agencies, and bareboat charterers to avoid making crew changes at the ports of countries with Ebola cases, and to spread awareness among the ship’s crew of the dangers of the virus, as prescribed by the International Chamber of Shipping, International Transport Workers’ Federation, and International Maritime Employers’ Committee.