By Jennifer P. Rendon and Emme Rose Santiagudo
Thirteen tourists were refused entry to Boracay Island after they were found to have recently traveled to China and its administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau, the epicenter of the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak.
Madel Joy Tayco, deputy information manager of Boracay’s task force for 2019-nCoV, said these tourists were flagged by their Border Patrol since Feb 8, 2020.
“Initially, medyo may resistance pero naayos naman. May mga na-intercept kami na gusto talaga nilang pumunta ng Boracay,” she told Daily Guardian on Sunday.
Tayco said the 13 foreign nationals, mostly Chinese, were bound to Boracay but had travel histories to China and its administrative regions in Macau and Hong Kong. They arrived before the lockdown order was issued more than a week ago.
“Usually po talaga Chinese nationalities pero we have also intercepted other nationalities na may history of travel sa China, merong Australian, Korean, Colombian, and Russian,” she said.
Tayco said their passports showed that they stayed in China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the last 14 days.
“So, even if in transit lang sila or nag stopover, it appeared that bumaba talaga sila ng eroplano,” she said.
The 13 tourists were “caught” by members of the Border Patrol stationed in the boundary of Nabas and Malay towns.
The Border Patrols are composed of the local police station, the PNP mobile force company, Philippine Army, Municipal Auxiliary Police, Malay Municipal Health Office and Municipal Tourism Office.
The Border Patrol flagged down tourist vans, buses, and even private vehicles in keeping with acting Mayor Frolibar S. Bautista’s Executive Order No. 04 series of 2020 which “temporarily suspended the entry of all persons with travel history to China, Hong Kong, and Macau for the past 14 days.”
The order was also meant to implement “other precautionary measures to combat the spread of 2019-nCoV.”
Tayco said they explained to the foreign nationals the contents of the executive order.
The Malay council earlier adopted the resolution initially passed by the inter-agency task force on Wednesday calling for the lockdown.
Tayco said border patrols have been deployed at the town’s boundaries particularly in the seaports and airports to check the travel history of visitors.
“If may bus na darating, paparahin sila ng Border Patrol,” Tayco explained.
Members of the Border Patrol will then issue a template announcement: “Sorry for the inconvenience. We need your cooperation. We need to see your passports if you have traveled abroad recently.”
Persons who traveled to China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the last two weeks were given the option to undergo quarantine in an area designated by the municipal government.
“But all opted to do self-quarantine outside Malay,” Tayco said.
She added that all tourists who were refused entry to Boracay declined facility quarantine, saying that their primary purpose is to visit the island.
Tayco said they also checked for signs and symptoms associated with nCoV infection.
For other passengers of bus, vans, and private vehicles that passed the check, they were allowed to proceed to Boracay.
On the other hand, those who were flagged were brought to a holding area where they then receive further information and counselling on the options that they could take.
“They decided to go back where they came from – in Kalibo or Manila, mostly,” Tayco said.
Meanwhile, Bautista said members of the border patrols will be consistently deployed 24/7 to ensure that the ban will be strictly enforced.
Earlier, the province of Aklan said that the banning of tourists from China, Hong Kong, and Macau, resulted in massive cancellation of hotel bookings.
However, “it’s still business as usual in world -renowned Boracay Island,” Governor Florencio Miraflores of Aklan said.
The Department of Tourism 6, on the other hand, suggested room rate sale to encourage domestic tourism.
It also pushed for intraregional tourism to compensate the foreign market
From the initial 2,000 persons under monitoring (PUMs) in Malay, Tayco said only 108 were left in different hotels and establishments in Boracay.
“Most of them checked out already and if they are outside Malay wala na kaming jurisdiction sa kanila. From 479 they went down to 303 then 180 and now 108,” she added.
According to Tayco, they have already cascaded instruction and guidelines to the resorts and establishments catering to the 108 PUMs.
“All of them have cooperated with us by following the guidelines like proper hand-washing and wearing of masks for their front liners. They know that it’s for their safety,” she said.
Once the PUM exhibits signs and symptoms, Tayco said the resorts and establishments will have to report it immediately to the Department of Health (DOH)-6.