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Think tank questions P35-M rent for 2GO’s ‘quarantine ships’

Public policy think tank Infrawatch PH is questioning the government’s move to use 2GO Group’s passenger vessels as floating quarantine facilities and paying P35 million for renting the ships.

“Given that government has limited funds for its social amelioration program, it should clarify whether quarantine facilities being built in government owned-buildings are already approaching capacity to warrant a P35 million rental outlay to the private sector,” Infrawatch PH convenor Terry Ridon said in a statement.

“Further, the priority of government should be competitively-priced land-based quarantine facilities in the event that government facilities reach capacity,” Ridon said.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier disclosed that the DOTr paid P35 million for renting two vessels of 2GO as “quarantine ships” for returning overseas Filipino workers and seafarers required to undergo 14-day quarantine. 

Ridon, however, said that unless government-owned land-based facilities being converted as COVID-19 facilities are already in full capacity, the use of privately-owned facilities for such purpose “is nothing but a waste of severely limited coronavirus crisis funding.”

“The P35-million rental outlay could have funded instead the SAP (social amelioration program) benefiting an additional 7,000 low income families,” he said.

Section 4 of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, authorized the President to "direct the operation of any privately-owned passenger vessels to serve as temporary medical facilities."

The law further provided that “reasonable compensation for any additional damage or cost incurred by the owner or the possessor of the subject property solely on account of complying with the directive shall be given.”

Aside from the “Bayanihan” law, Section 24 of Republic Act No. 9295 or the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 provides that: "In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during emergencies and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operations of any vessel engaged in domestic trade and commerce." —LDF, GMA News