By Roy Mabasa
Some Filipinos in Hubei Province have opted to “stay behind” due to the improved facilities in the area and for fear of losing their jobs after the Philippine government imposed travel restrictions on certain parts of China, including Wuhan City, the epicenter of the 2019 novel Coronavirus.
This was the explanation given by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in response to questions on why only 30 of the 56 Filipinos who earlier signified their intention to be repatriated made it home on Sunday.
“There are so many reasons for that but principally because of what was happening on the ground. Basically, things and circumstances were always changing. For one, a family of four had a change of heart. For another, the facilities in Wuhan were constantly improving with the building of two new hospitals to cater to nCoV patients, including PUIs (persons under investigation) and PUMs (persons under monitoring),” according to Paola Ebora of the DFA’s Office of Strategic Communications and Research (OSCR).
Ebora said the Filipinos in China’s most affected city may have been thinking that it would be better for them to stay back because the 14-day quarantine may hamper their activities and could be rendered useless.
In addition, the DFA information officer noted the fact that these Filipinos cannot return to their work and their lives in Hubei because of the Philippine government’s restriction to travel to any part of China from the Philippines.
“So, it’s all these and more that made our people pull back, such that in the end, some had decided they wanted to stay behind,” she added.
On whether there is a second batch of repatriates from Wuhan, Ebora said the DFA will have to look at the demand, saying “people have started to hunker down with the diminishing numbers, improving facilities and general improvement of the situation in Wuhan and Hubei.”
She noted that the repatriation was organized mainly for the Filipinos and their families in Wuhan and Hubei Province in general “because of the existing lockdown where they couldn’t move even if they wanted to.”
On the other hand, she said freedom of movement is still available in other parts of China subject to the Chinese guidelines on disease containment and subject to Chinese procedures for Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) clearances.