By Hannah Torregoza
Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go on Monday said the Philippine government will wait for China to issue a formal directive that will allow them to rescue Filipinos trapped in coronavirus-stricken Wuhan.
Go, who chairs the Senate committee on health, gave the assurance that the government is constantly in contact with Chinese officials to wait for further advice regarding its plans to repatriate Filipinos trapped in the city due to the government’s lockdown.
“Our DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) officials are waiting for China to decide. Because they rejected our suggestion to evacuate the Filipinos in Wuhan who want to go home,” Go told reporters in an interview.
“I also want them to return back to the country, but they must test negative from the virus, they shouldn’t be infected by the virus. But I worry about them because they are caught in the lockdown, they are like prisoners there.”
Aside from the Philippines, other countries like Thailand are also organizing evacuations of their compatriots from Wuhan but are waiting for the Chinese government to lift the lockdown.
According to the DFA there are around 150 Filipinos in Wuhan City, the source of the new coronavirus that has already killed more than 80 people around the globe.
But if ever they are successful in retrieving members of the Filipino community from Wuhan, Go said the government must be ready with mechanisms to ensure the new coronavirus will not spread in the Philippines.
“They are in constant contact with DFA officials. Our government is monitoring the situation. So let’s not panic and just listen to our medical authorities,” the senator urged.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian echoed Go’s call and said the rapid spread of the new coronavirus should prompt the DFA to have a system in place for the evacuation of Filipinos in Wuhan.
“We have to prepare for any eventuality,” Gatchalian said.
“The way the new coronavirus spreads so fast and easily in different parts of the world is worrying, that is why it is important that our DFA will regularly provide updates about the safety of our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” he said.
Sen. Cynthia Villar also pointed to the importance of making sure the OFWs to be air-lifted from Wuhan are not contaminated with the virus.
She said it is up to the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to decide on what’s best to do on the issue, adding, “but I guess, before they are air-lifted, they must be sure they have no virus because they might infect the others here because reports said that the whole Wuhan province is already contaminated. I guess we can quarantine them until we are sure that they are not contaminated.”