MANILA – Evacuate our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from China following certain protocols and safety precautions, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Friday, January 31, as he reiterated his call for a travel ban for all of novel coronavirus-affected China.
“The US, Japan, South Korea, Britain, Spain, France, and Australia are all evacuating their people from the ground zero of the epidemic. But our government wants our OFWs to remain there, saying they don’t want to infect Filipinos here. How come it has, until the last minute, allowed Chinese from Wuhan to enter the country freely,” Pangilinan said.
“Iuwi natin ang mga OFW natin because we take care of our own,” he added.
The other countries have started evacuating their citizens from Wuhan, sending chartered flights and asking permission from the Chinese authorities.
According to Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana, Wuhan is a transport hub that hosts some 150 Filipinos, including students, teachers, domestic workers, and factory workers.
The government earlier said it will not be evacuating OFWs in China, and has instead urged them to undergo “self-quarantine.” It said China needs to give its permission before evacuating OFWs.
The Philippines confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019 nCoV) Wednesday, January 30. Despite numerous calls since early this week to impose a travel ban from affected Chinese provinces, the government has just announced today a travel ban on Chinese nationals from Hubei and other affected areas in China.
“We’re afraid this is a little too late. We already have one case of 2019 nCoV, and over 50 under investigations. We are disappointed with how late this travel ban has been made,” Pangilinan said.
“Now we have to be more vigilant to ensure that we contain its spread. Metro Manila is a densely populated metropolis- our people go through bustling crowds every single day. Public transportation, schools, the market. An outbreak here would challenge the capacity of our hospitals that are already also over-crowded,” he said.
Several countries, including Russia and Mongolia, have already closed its borders with China. The United States State Department recently issued a “Do Not Travel” warning for China, while Malaysia has suspended the issuance of visas for Chinese citizens from Wuhan and the areas around Hubei province.