By Andrea Aro and Betheena Kae Unite
An employee at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) tested positive for COVID-19, triggering the temporary closure of the port starting Wednesday, the Bureau of Customs reported.
“The port shall be temporarily closed for disinfection” the bureau announced in an advisory.
“It needs disinfection dahil may nag-positive na isang empleyado namin sa COVID-19 at yung isa naman po ay person under investigation (PUI) . Kinakailangan po naming mag-ingat at pag-ingatan din yung health ng mga tao namin doon (“As one employee contracted the disease and another is a PUI, we need to ensure our employees’ health”),” Assistant Customs Commissioner Vincent Philip Maronilla said.
The Bureau of Customs has already started contact tracing on persons who may have interacted with the COVID-19 case, in coordination with the Department of Health.
“Those that have already been identified were already advised to do self quarantine,” Maronilla said, noting that they shall be closely monitored by the bureau’s internal administration group.
Even with the temporary closure of the port, Maronilla said, port operations like assessment and releasing of shipments will continue.
“Patuloy pa ring magfa-function ang MICP sa processing ng inyong mga shipments. Yung mga hindi po affected na mga functions nandoon pa naman po tulad ng x-ray at ibang nakahiwalay na functions (MICP will still carry on with processing your shipments. Other functions not affected by the closure like x-ray screenings of goods will continue”),” he said.
A contingency plan has already been set in motion. Personnel from the Port of Manila have been directed by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to assist the MICP in processing and assessments of shipments while the disinfection of the port is underway.
In a memorandum, Guerrero directed other offices of MICP not affected by the closure to function normally, including vessel boarding, examination of goods and x-ray examination. All MICP importation transactions will still be processed.
Stakeholders were advised to use the Customer Care Portal (CCP) to submit their documents and process their transactions and the Goods Declaration and Verification System (GDVS) to monitor the status of their shipments.
The CCP and GDVS are both accessible through the official Customs website. The utilization of online the platform also facilitates work from home arrangements for some of the MICP’s key personnel.
As of Tuesday (March 24), the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country have reached 501 and claimed 33 lives.