By Azer Parrocha
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night vowed to repatriate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak worsen.
“Kung nagkamatayan na talaga at mga Pilipino doon pinagtutulak na (If people are dying and Filipinos are being pushed away). Whether you like it or not, I will bring them home. I will bring them home because they have no other country to seek shelter,” Duterte said in a speech during an assembly with governors and mayors in Pasay City.
“Kung ang Pilipino dun pinapaalis e di pupunta tayo (If Filipinos are being sent away then we will go) and we will marshal all available carriers there by ship or by air. Kunin natin sila (We’ll get them),” he added.
Duterte assured that there will be safety precautions done for all OFWs who wish to be repatriated from countries with confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV infection.
“Impose the rules and tell them to strictly follow it,” Duterte said. “It is when you do not follow the rules that trouble comes in.”
On Sunday, 30 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who just returned home from China’s Wuhan City, ground zero of the 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease, were transferred from the chartered plane into their dedicated buses and brought to the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City in Tarlac which will be their home for the 14-day quarantine period.
The government assured that all preventive and precautionary measures are in place to ensure that the adjacent communities of NCC will not be placed at risk.
Seasoned Cabinet member
He praised Health Secretary Duque, who he described as a “seasoned Cabinet member” for leading the agency in containing 2019-nCoV in the country.
“If you can just listen to Secretary Duque, he will be as good as any other expert. Matagal na ‘yan sa gobyerno (He has been in the government for so long). He has the working knowledge of how to cope up,” Duterte said.
“Duque has expertise. But he is the most seasoned Cabinet member diyan (there),” he added, noting that he also served as Health Secretary during the term of former Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Duterte, meanwhile, lamented how some “idiots” were pessimistic about the government’s capacity to handle the 2019-nCoV situation in the country.
“There are some kibitzers in politics, idiots if you may, na pagputok nito (that when this news broke) they’re asking what is the government of the Republic of the Philippines doing. We do not see any infrastructure there to meet this…all pessimistic. All gusto talaga magkaroon ng takot (they really want to create fear),” Duterte said.
“Alam mo tayo yung (You know) infrastructure. I have my powers and Secretary Duque handles the Department of Health. Sa department of health meron namang provincial, municipal, city, at saka yung mga barangay health workers. These will really be the frontliners when the time comes,” Duterte said.
He said panicking over the 2019-nCoV outbreak did not help stop the spread of the deadly virus.
“You want to shout to the heavens? Go ahead. Would it prevent the corona from invading the country?” Duterte said.
The President also assured the public that government is prepared to handle all public emergencies in case a worst-case scenario happens.
“If it really goes out of hand, wag kayong mag-aalala. May pera si Dominguez (don’t worry. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III) We have the money I can assure you and we can defeat this virus,” Duterte said.
Duterte said he is willing to tap the military if the 2019-nCoV becomes a pandemic.
Meanwhile, Duterte said in jest that Filipinos were “strong” enough to combat the 2019-nCoV infection.
“If it’s a matter of contamination, we’ll just have to rely on the antibodies of — how strong the antibodies of the Philippines are. Medyo hindi madali itong Pilipino ma ano — matamaan ng mga sakit. Unang-una, malakas magdasal (Filipinos don’t easily get sick. Firstly, because they pray hard),” he quipped.
In the Philippines, the number of persons under investigation (PUIs) for possible 2019-nCoV infection has gone up to 261, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
DOH said the PUIs are admitted in various health facilities. About 48 of them have been discharged under strict monitoring.
Meanwhile, 109 PUIs have tested negative and three tested positive for the 2019-nCoV. There are 202 cases pending test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
Globally, there are some 40,000 people infected with the deadly virus with more than 900 fatalities, a vast majority from China. (PNA)