By MYRNA M. VELASCO
As many independent oil firms are sourcing finished products from refineries in China, they formally sought revisions in what was initially deemed as restrictive policy on vessels bringing in petroleum shipments – and had thumbed down the initial plan to temporarily ban their entry into the country’s seaports.
In the initial Circular issued by the Department of Health (DOH), it was directed that “all vessels calling from China, including Hong Kong and Macau SAR (Special Administrative Region) in the past fourteen (14) days must be “prohibited to enter any Philippine port,” except for emergency cases for Filipinos and holders of permanent residence visa.
On the appeal of the oil firms and other affected industries, the policy was relaxed by the health department and was just replaced with stringent ‘quarantine measures’ to be enforced with the crew of the vessels.
Players in the oil industry disclosed that the initial anchorage order of the DOH on totally barring the entry and mooring of cargo vessels coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau, could have caused unwarranted disruption of oil supply in the country, thus, they pleaded for modifications in the department circular.
The first DOH Circular issued to port authorities and shipping agencies was on January 31, as anchored on the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte and the recommendation of the inter-agency task force for emerging and re-emerging diseases; while the second Circular which relaxed some of the provisions was dispatched by Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo on February 4.
The oil industry players said many of them are sourcing finished gasoline and diesel products from China because it has the largest refineries; and cost procurements also come cheaper compared to other markets in the Asian region.
Given that, the DOH just opted to enforce ‘rigid quarantine measures’ on these vessels delivering the fuels, so the spread and threat of the novel coronavirus could be avoided at the country’s ports.
“Upon arrival at quarantine anchorage, the master of vessel must hoist at its foremast the yellow flag and inform immediately the quarantine station at assigned port through ship agents,” the DOH circular has instructed.
It was further stipulated that “the master of the vessel shall submit a duly accomplished Maritime Declaration of Health and BOQ (Bureau of Quarantine) shall issue free pratique,” or the clearance given to a ship to enter a port with assurance from the captain that the crew are free from contagious diseases.
The health department further mandated that “vessels cleared at the first port of entry and calling another local port, which within the past 14 days travelled from China, Hong Kong and Macau SAR, must be boarded at the designated quarantine anchorage by QMO (Quarantine Medical Officer), submit daily accomplished maritime declaration of health and other pertinent documents.”