MANILA — A special team of immigration officers will handle procedures for Filipinos who would be repatriated from Hubei province in China to prevent the possible entry of the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) into the country, a Department of Justice (DOJ) official said Wednesday.
“We need to check and verify the identity of every person who enters our gates. Apart from updating travel records, immigration formalities are essential for our national security. We want to make sure that our security is not compromised by those who seek to gain entry into our territory by exploiting the current situation,” Justice Undersecretary and spokesperson Markk Perete told reporters.
Perete further said the measure is needed against a valid threat of a “current medical emergency we are facing”.
He also said the team has undergone briefings conducted by the Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) and will be provided with necessary protective gear.
Two chartered flights are on standby to evacuate Filipinos who wish to return home from Hubei province amid the nCoV outbreak in China.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay said the Philippine government is coordinating with Chinese authorities on the ground for clearance.
The City of Wuhan in Hubei province is said to be the ground zero of the nCoV outbreak.
Based on a resolution issued by the inter-agency body on the nCoV led by the Department of Health, the repatriates will be subjected to 14 days of mandatory quarantine upon arrival in the Philippines.
There is no timeline yet as to when the repatriation will begin, which is subject to China’s rules on disease containment, including immigration clearance and quarantine process, among others.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) earlier offered to assist Filipinos and other foreign nationals with expired/expiring visas through their respective embassies and consulates.
Filipinos who want to avail of the special flights from Hubei to the Philippines are advised to contact the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai at (+86-21) 6281-8020, (+86) 1391 747-7112 or via email at email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Filipinos who wish to stay in China are advised to heed advisories of local health authorities and cooperate with efforts to quell the further spread of the nCoV.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Strategic Communications and Research Ernesto Abella echoed calls from the Chinese government on foreigners, including Filipinos to seek immediate medical assistance when necessary.
During emergency situations, Filipinos in Hubei may contact, in addition to the Embassy details, any of the two 24-hour hotlines established by the MFA at 86-27-8712-2256 and +86-27-8781-1173.
The MFA hotlines can also be contacted should Filipinos need assistance, supplies, and other needs. (PNA)