Ships from China and its special administrative regions (SAR) may directly berth and discharge cargoes at Philippine ports, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Atty. Jay Daniel Santiago said in a media briefing on February 5.
This after the port agency appealed to the Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) to lift its 14-day anchorage order on all ships from China due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“As far as the ships are concerned, as far as the cargoes are concerned, we are business as usual. There is no quarantine (as of February 5),” PPA general manager Atty. Jay Daniel Santiago said.
BoQ on January 31, 2020 had ordered the suspension of berthing of all vessels that called China over the past two weeks. On Feb 4, the Department of Health also issued order 2020-0034 for the prevention of spread of novel coronavirus on all seaports.
The ports authority appealed to BoQ to lift the order so as not to “greatly impact our supply chain”.
Santiago noted that 83% of all cargoes bound for the Philippines come from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
“We will now allow ships even coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau, [and] Taiwan to directly berth and discharge cargoes at Manila port and all other PPA-operated ports,” Santiago said.
The PPA chief noted there is currently “no literature that discloses that there is a very high risk (of) transmission of the virus over cargoes.”
Santiago said this has been validated by representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), Department of Health, and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine during a briefing last February 3.
According to the WHO website, it is still not known how long the coronavirus survives on surfaces, although preliminary information suggests the virus may survive for a few hours.
The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person, the microbe traveling through respiratory droplets generated when the person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of infected saliva or discharge from the nose.
WHO added it is safe to receive packages from China: “People receiving packages are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From experience with other coronaviruses, we know that these types of viruses don’t survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.”
Santiago added that most ports handling containerized cargoes are mechanized with very little human intervention.
He said terminal operators have been instructed to implement, if needed, protocols for disinfecting cargoes.
But crews of ships whose last port of embarkation is China, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan will not be allowed to disembark in Philippine ports.” Their relatives will also not be allowed to board the ships.”
Santiago said crews will also have to go through protocols imposed by BoQ, including accomplishing the Maritime Declaration of Health and if necessary, undergoing the 14-day quarantine.
Meanwhile, cruise ships, which mostly come from Hong Kong, have cancelled their calls to the Philippines.
The WHO has declared the novel coronavirus—first detected in Wuhan, Hubei, China—as a public health emergency of international concern. The virus has claimed nearly 500 deaths and infected more than 20,000 worldwide. There are three declared positive cases in the Philippines as of February 5. One of the three died on February 1. – Text and photo by Roumina Pablo