Navy chief tests negative for virus; Army, Air Force chiefs in quarantine

 

MANILA, Philippines – The chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) branches of service – Army, Navy, Air Force – went on quarantine after finding out they had been in contact with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

The commanding generals of the Army and the Air Force were still in quarantine on Wednesday, April 1, according to their spokespersons.

Meanwhile, the flag officer-in-command of the Philippine Navy, Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, has tested negative for the virus, and came out of quarantine on Tuesday, March 31, he told Rappler on Wednesday, April 1.

Bacordo earlier came in contact with Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, as well as AFP chief General Felimon Santos Jr and another senior military officer – all of whom later tested positive for COVID-19.

The Navy chief was present at the conference of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in Malacañang on March 16 along with other top officers of the military. That night, Zubiri announced that he was positive for the coronavirus.

Bacordo went on self-quarantine after the IATF-EID conference, upon the advice of the Navy Chief Surgeon. He got tested for the virus, and the results came out 10 days later on March 26. Although he was negative for COVID-19, he finished the 14-day mandatory quarantine.

On Tuesday, a day after completing the quarantine, the vice admiral made the rounds of checkpoints manned by the Philippine Navy in Marikina City and in Cainta, Rizal.

Commanding generals in quarantine

Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay started quarantine over the weekend, and will finish by April 10, Army spokesperson Colonel Ramon Zagala said in a message to reporters on Wednesday.

Not showing any symptoms of COVID-19, Gapay decided to self-isolate after Santos tested positive for the disease on Friday, March 27 – the same day Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced he would go on self-quarantine because he had been in contact with the military chief.

Gapay last came in contact with Santos and Lorenzana at the IATF-EID conference in Malacañang on March 16, Zagala said.

Lorenzana tested negative for the coronavirus, he told reporters on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Philippine Air Force chief Lieutenant General Allen Paredes went on home quarantine starting March 24, the day Santos made the same announcement. They both had been in contact with the senior military officer who first tested positive for the virus – and whose identity the AFP declined to publicize.

Paredes attended the same events as that officer on March 4 and March 12, Air Force spokesperson Major Aristides Galang told reporters in a message.

Paredes’ latest outdoor engagement was at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on March 21, when the Air Force delivered medical equipment and supplies from China, donated by a Filipino-Chinese businessman.

The Air Force chief “is in good health and continues to perform his duties and responsibilities from his military quarters,” Galang said.

Masks mandatory at headquarters

AFP chief Santos, who is asymptomatic of the disease, on Tuesday issued a memo requiring all military and civilian personnel to wear face masks at all times inside the AFP General Headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo, in Quezon City.

People without face masks will be denied entry to the camp starting April 2, Thursday, the AFP said in a press statement.

“The initiative will be replicated as needed in other military camps and facilities nationwide. This is part of the AFP’s measures in protecting its members not only on the frontlines but also those who are still performing administrative duties inside camps,” the AFP said.

Access to Camp Aguinaldo has been restricted as the entire island of Luzon and parts of the Visayas and Mindanao went on “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdown to slow down the spread of COVID-19. The Luzon lockdown will end on April 12.

The military is among the frontliners in the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been manning checkpoints and offering free rides to essential workers. With the implementation of a new National Action Plan on the pandemic, the military has assumed a more central role in operations.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Philippines has recorded 2,084 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 88 deaths and 49 recoveries. – Rappler.com