Solons puzzled why Filipino seafarers got infected with coronavirus on their way to job destinations

Published October 29, 2020, 9:50 PM

by Ben Rosario

Congressmen want quick answers as to how a number of Filipino seafarers deployed recently to Australia and China became infected with COVID-19 despite testing negative in the Philippines before leaving to their respective destinations abroad.

TUCP Partylist Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza and Marino Partylist Rep. Macnell Lusotan aired their concern over the two incidents during Thursday’s hybrid hearing of the Committee on Overseas Employment that Mendoza chairs.

Lusotan warned that unless Philippine authorities are able to fully explain the two incidents, there is a possibility that these would affect deployment and hiring of Filipino seafarers abroad.

Last week, the Philipine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported that 29 seafarers who tested negative to COVID-19 in the Philippines were found to be infected with the dreaded disease as soon as they arrived in China to board their ships.

Lusotan revealed that a similar incident happened in Australia where several Filipinos cleared by Philippine health authorities tested positive following retesting abroad.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Enrico Fos said various angles are being looked into in the on-going probe being conducted by an inter-agency group.

Fos said there are a number of possibilities that may have triggered the two incidents.

In the meantime, there has been a recommendation to require seafarers going abroad to be quarantined after undergoing the requisite RT-PCR testing, saying that this will “preclude contamination in between testing and embarkation.”

Mendoza warned that a ban on Filipino seafarers abroad is possible unless there is a clear determination of the causes of the two incidents.