Concerned about the need to monitor arrivals on the island, Acting Governor Shirley Abundo has asked the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to allow the use of its passenger building and other facilities at Virac port for the overnight stay of cargo truck drivers and helpers.
The acting chief executive sought PPA’s permission following a dialogue with local movers of essential goods procured from Metro Manila and its suburbs and delivered regularly to distributors on the island prior to the imposition of the Luzon-wide community quarantine.
Under the quarantine protocols of the Department of Health (DOH), all arrivals in the island province are to be considered Persons Under Monitoring (PUM) and should undergo 14-day self-quarantine.
This means that the cargo truck drivers and helpers will not be able to travel back to Manila for the next shipment of basic commodities from the metropolis, particularly vegetables, canned goods, rice, hygiene products, and others.
Traders present during the hours-long meeting said that this is not possible since most of them employ only one driver while others are merely relying on deliveries by trucks of their Manila suppliers.
In making the appeal to PPA General Manager Atty. Jay Daniel Santiago, Acting Gov. Abundo said it is in the best interest of the local community that the cargo personnel spend the night and attend to personal needs at the PPA Virac passenger building and its facilities.
There is merit in housing them in one area, she reasoned, as it would provide an easier health check for transitory people coming in with the cargoes and who are expected to leave within one or two days.
There will be better management of the quarantine area since there will be only one place to be cleaned and disinfected, the acting chief executive stressed, and it will assure control of their movements as they can be monitored from one place.
“All these lead to a safer environment for the local community amidst the COVID-19 scare,” she pointed out, citing local business establishments who assured the provincial government that they will be providing for the food and other basic needs of the cargo personnel.
Abundo was prompted to write the latter after the Catanduanes PPA in-charge flatly refused to allow the use of their port facilities in Virac and San Andres for said purpose, claiming that there was an existing policy that prohibits the use of their facilities for any other purpose.
During the meeting of the concerned members of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) at the capitol, a scheme was proposed wherein the cargo would either be unloaded at the port, with the cargo transferred to another truck for the delivery to the warehouse, or the truck itself would be driven by a local driver to the warehouse.
However, local distributors balked at the idea, saying that they do not have enough trucks or drivers and that it would be an additional expense which they could not bear on account of the price freeze on basic commodities.
Some PDRRMC members even suggested that since the PPA facilities are in Catanduanes, the provincial government should exercise its power to take over said facilities in the light of the declaration of national health emergency.
When the M/V Eugene Elson arrived at the port of Virac last week, task force personnel from the Coast Guard, PDRRMO, and Virac RHU were already waiting at the sprawling compound.
The nine trucks on board came out one by one and lined up before they were disinfected. Their drivers and helpers were separately sprayed with disinfectant before their temperatures were taken. The trucks were later brought out by other drivers to their destinations.
The quarantined drivers and crew were taken to the RHU facility in San Isidro Village but slipped out one by one after they learned that one driver of a big distributor was allowed to be quarantined at the latter’s compound.