MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is investigating a foreign cargo vessel for allegedly violating the Philippines’ 14-day quarantine rule amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
PCG Spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilio said that PCG Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia ordered the investigation of the Panama-flagged MV Harmony 6, which arrived at Poro Point in La Union on February 23.
Captain Luu Van Loi, MV Harmony 6 skipper, declared to Philippine authorities on February 23 that the ship left China on February 10, apparently to skirt the 14-day quarantine strictly implemented on ships coming from China and other areas with the coronavirus outbreak.
The PCG said that based on the initial report, the MV Harmony 6 arrived in Changzhou, China, on February 13 and left that country on February 18.
“Scheduled to have its next port call at the Port of Poro Point in La Union, Philippines, the crew of the vessel allegedly turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) from 19 February 2020 until its arrival in Philippine waters on 23 February 2020,” the PCG said.
The MV Harmony 6 was placed under temporary detention at the anchorage area pending PCG investigation.
“PCG will coordinate with BOQ to identify possible criminal charges if MV Harmony 6 will be found guilty of mentioned violations,” the PCG said.
Under the rule, foreign vessels that came from any country with reported COVID-19 cases should observe a 14-day period from its date of departure to its arrival in Philippines waters, before the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) conducts a health inspection on its crew. This is a requirement for the issuance of port clearance.
“However, due to the Captain’s misrepresentation of its date of departure from China, the BOQ team boarded the vessel to conduct the health inspection among its 18 Vietnamese and 5 Indian crew in just 6 days, instead of the required 14-day quarantine period,” the PCG said.
Fortunately, the PCG Command Center, with the help of the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC), managed to alert La Union port authorities about the altered date of departure on February 24, a few hours after the health inspection.
The Philippines has imposed a partial travel ban on China and its administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As of Friday, the COVID-19 death toll in mainland China stands at 2,788, while there are 78,824 people infected with the virus there. – Rappler.com