Indonesia

Gov’t paying Dennis Uy’s 2GO P35 million for quarantine ships

Pia Ranada
But from the original 1,800 patients the ships were supposed to accommodate, it turns out only one-third – 600 – can be served due to the need for physical distancing

SHIP RENTALS. This is a photo of a 2GO vessel. Photo from 2GO website

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is shelling out P35 million to use two ships of Dennis Uy’s logistics company 2GO Group to house seafarers and migrant workers undergoing quarantine for the coronavirus.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade gave this figure in the virtual Laging Handa press briefing on Wednesday, April 22.

“The government is renting it, those two [ships], for around P35 million,” he said.

“It’s cheap if you compute on the basis of bedspace and use,” he added.

The P35 million is rental payment of the two ships for two months, according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Why does this matter? Three weeks ago, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles publicly thanked 2GO for providing the ships.

2GO is a logistics company led by Uy, a businessman who enjoys a close friendship with President Rodrigo Duterte. Uy was a major campaign donor for Duterte’s presidential bid and was eventually appointed his presidential adviser on sports.

“Some of our kababayans (fellow countrymen) stand ready to help in our time of need. Isa po dito ang 2GO (One of these is 2GO) who the DOTr is working with to set up a floating hospital,” Nograles had said on April 3.

“Thank you. Maraming, maraming salamat (Many thanks), 2GO,” the Cabinet member added.

The government had then announced that 2GO is providing a ship that can serve 1,500 patients and a smaller ship that can service 300.

Meanwhile, another 1,000 patients would be attended to at the 2GO terminal.

Not at full capacity. However, Tugade gave different capacity figures for the ships on Wednesday.

Instead of 1,500 patients, the larger 2GO ship has a capacity of only 1,400. But even this won’t be maximized because of the need to enforce physical distancing.

“Doon sa malaking barko, ang beds ho doon mga 1,400, pero hindi po nagagamit ‘yung beds ‘pagkat mayroon ho tayong social distancing na ginagamit. Kabuuan na magagamit sa social distancing, mga 400,” said Tugade on Wednesday.

(In the bigger boat, there are around 1,400 beds, but we can’t use all because we’re practicing social distancing. The total number that can be used with social distancing is around 400.)

The ship only began taking in patients last Sunday, April 19. So far, only 270 beds are being used, said Tugade.

As for the smaller ship which Nograles had said could handle 300, it turns out its capacity is only 200 given the need to enforce distancing, according to the transport chief. Some 135 beds are already being used.

Based on Tugade’s figures, out of the original 1,800 patients that Nograles said the 2GO ships could accommodate, they can actually only take in 600. This is only one-third of the original capacity the government was expecting.

The ships were envisioned to help ease congestion in hospitals. Tugade had said in a statement that Metro Manila hospitals had “pleaded for help” because some them were operating beyond capacity. – Rappler.com 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.