PAMPANGA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The Fontana Leisure Park inside the Clark Freeport Zone here was placed under “full lockdown” on Tuesday, May 19, after the discovery of an illegal makeshift hospital for Chinese citizens suspected of infection with the coronavirus.
In a statement emailed by Clark Development Corporation (CDC) to Rappler on Wednesday morning, May 20, the state-owned firm said the “makeshift medical facility for Chinese patients” was inside a villa at Fontana Leisure Park.
The CDC said its public safety department, the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 3 (CIDG-3), and the Food and Drug Administration conducted the joint raid.
“As a result, Clark officials have ordered the closure and full lockdown of Fontana Leisure Park inside the Clark Freeport following the raid. This illegal activity not only violates the law, but also poses danger to individuals who potentially need medical treatment for the deadly disease. CDC does not and will never tolerate this inside the Clark Freeport,” CDC said.
The CDC said the team arrested Hu Ling, 45, the alleged owner of the underground hospital; and alleged pharmacist Lee Seung-Hyun, 38. Both are Chinese, authorities said.
“Aside from the operators who are now facing criminal charges, the CDC will also hold into account the management of Fontana for allowing this to happen within their property. We assure Clark stakeholders, the locators, local communities and residents especially, that we will not stop until all those involved are prosecuted and punished.
CIDG-3 said in a report that Hu and Lee were arrested at 1:30 pm on Monday, May 18, at Villa 628 along Florida Street in Fontana.
The two are facing charges for violation of Republic Act No. 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, and violation of RA 2382 or the Medical Act of 1959.
CIDG-3 chief Colonel Amante Daro said that prior to the raid, his office received a letter of complaint from a concerned citizen that a COVID-19 patient was “undergoing medical attention” inside the Fontana villa.
The informant also reported the operation of a pharmacy selling Chinese-labeled medicines inside the villa.
The CIDG-3 then coordinated with FDA-Region 3, the Department of Health-Region 3, and the CDC for the inspection of the underground hospital and pharmacy.
Rappler learned that Hu and Lee were being held at the CIDG-3 headquarters in Camp Olivas in the San Fernando City and have yet to be tested for COVID-19 as of posting.
Daro said his office already requested the DOH-3 for the tests.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement that he has ordered the Bureau of Immigration to coordinate with the PNP and local government officials “in tracking down these Chinese and other nationals who sought treatment from this unauthorized medical facility in Pampanga and who could still be dangerously roaming around.”
“If found, they will be brought to legitimate hospitals or quarantine facilities for proper treatment, without prejudice to charging those responsible for this illegal operation,” Guevarra added.
The raid was conducted just days after Pampanga transitioned into modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), after two months under ECQ.
It was not the first time that Fontana figured in a controversy. In December 2016, the resort’s casino was shut down following the arrest of 1,240 illegal Chinese workers inside the leisure park in a Bureau of Immigration operation.
Fontana is owned by Macau gaming tycoon Jack Lam, who was in the Philippine spotlight in December 2016 when two Bureau of Immigration officials were accused of extorting P50 million from him for the release of the detained Chinese casino workers. – With a report from Lian Buan/Rappler.com