By Alexandria San Juan
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has welcomed Senator Francis Tolentino’s proposal to use commercial ships as temporary quarantine centers to address the shortage of health facilities in the country amid spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In a response letter to the senator last week, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said that as early as March 22, DOTr was already considering “commissioning private passenger ships, and possibly utilizing available Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels, as floating quarantine hospitals.”
According to Tugade, the quarantine ships can be installed with required medical equipment and can be complemented with other ships which shall serve as logistics or supply ships.
“Further, PCG offered to supervise the said floating quarantine hospitals and deploy PCG doctors and nurses to augment the dwindling number of existing civilian doctors, nurses, and health workers, in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH),” Tugade added.
Tolentino, in a request letter to the DOTr dated March 26, urged the Department to provide three passenger vessels—one for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao—to be used as temporary hospitals or medical facilities to help increase bed capacity needed for COVID-19 patients and decongest hospitals that are already operating above ideal circumstances.
Following this, Tugade told the senator that he already instructed Vice Admiral Narciso Vingson Jr. to plan and coordinate with ship owners, operators, and the (DOH) in five days beginning March 26.
On March 30, the health department recorded 128 additional coronavirus cases in the Philippines, bringing the total to 1,546, with 78 fatalities and 42 recoveries.