President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to implement a temporary travel ban on all travelers coming from mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau amid the threat of the novel coronavirus.
Senator Bong Go made the announcement on Sunday morning in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV aired on GMA News TV.
"Sa ngayon ay mag-i-implement na ng temporary travel ban on travelers coming from any part of China and its special administrative regions on top of the existing temporary travel ban imposed on those coming from Hubei province and other affected areas," Go said.
"Taking into consideration the concerns raised by key government officials and health experts, the President made a decision and has agreed to adopt this recommendation and implement it immediately as additional precautionary measure to protect the Filipinos. Sa ngayon ay magkakaroon na tayo ng travel ban sa lahat ng nanggagaling sa Tsina," he added.
Not just Chinese nationals
Go, in making the announcement, emphasized that the travel ban covers not only Chinese nationals but all travelers from China to the Philippines regardless of nationality.
"Magkakaroon tayo ng temporary ban banning the entry of any person except Filipino citizens and holders of permanent resident visa issued by the Philippine government directly coming from China and its special administrative regions," he said.
"Kung ibang bansa naman ang pinanggalingan mo pero nanggaling ka sa China within 14 days before arrival at hindi ka Pilipino o Philippine resident, hindi ka makakapasok sa Pilipinas," he added.
Meanwhile, Filipinos and Philippine residents who will come from China will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period upon arriving in the Philippines.
Last Friday, Malacañang announced that Duterte has ordered a ban on travelers coming only from Hubei province in China where Wuhan City, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus, is located.
But the President's decision not to immediately order a ban on all travelers coming from China seem to not sit well with netizens. On Friday evening, #OustDuterte is among the top trends on Twitter Philippines with over 17,000 tweets discussing it.
Twitter users railed about the supposed slow government response since the President’s meeting with concerned government officials on preventing the spread of novel coronavirus has been scheduled next week and not over the weekend.
Go, however, said the President tried to balance all sides before coming up with his decision.
"This is in line with the recommendations of DOH (Department of Health) as affirmed by the members of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases," he said.
"Nakinig na ang Pangulo sa hinaing ng mga Pilipino at nagdesisyon base sa rekomendasyon ng mga eksperto," he added.
Duterte earlier noted that it would be unfair to China if the Philippines would impose a travel ban from that country, considering that there are other nations with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.
As of February 1, the number of deaths from the novel coronavirus in China has reached 304 and there are already 14,380 confirmed cases in that country. —Erwin Colcol/KG, GMA News