MANILA -- Filipino-Chinese businessmen on Thursday condemned the spread of anti-Chinese sentiment due to the novel coronavirus, and said that stricter travel checks could affect trade.
China needs “support and moral encouragement” and the spread of misinformation “can be more dangerous than the virus itself due to their negative effects of causing confusion, fears, rancor and instability,” Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc President Henry Lim Bong Liong said.
“We just want everybody not to panic and we just want everybody to get our acts together to weather this crisis,” he said.
Deaths due to the new coronavirus strain from Wuhan has topped 500, mostly in China, as many countries, including the Philippines, temporarily banned inbound travel from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau.
The Philippines has 3 confirmed cases, 1 of whom died. All of the confirmed cases were Chinese.
With flights and cruises canceled, and a decline in Chinese arrivals, the tourism industry could be losing as much as $1 billion due to the outbreak, Lim said citing estimates.
The travel ban has resulted in the deferment of conferences, Lim said, as he led the distribution of 20,000 face masks in Chinatown.
“Sa totooo lang talaga apektado. (We are affected) I think it will get worse before it will get better. Right now everybody is on a wait and see attitude. There is really a dislocation right now,” he said.
“Hopefully it shouldn’t last long pero kung matagal na it would really affect mga produkto ng China coming here and exports to China,” Lim said.
Filipino-Chinese businessmen are seeking clarity on quarantine rules imposed on those coming from China including cargo vessels, he said. A 14-day quarantine on vessels containing goods could result in losses especially for those who import perishable items, he said.
Travelers from China are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period or enough time for the new coronavirus symptoms to appear on exposed individuals.
“Yung mga Chinese vessel hindi pa namin alam kung ano ang protocol dyan. Yung mga tao supposedly sa port lang ‘yung kargamento, pwede ba ibaba?” Lim said.
(We don’t know the protocol on Chinese vessels yet. The people are supposed to stay in the port, but how about the cargo, can we unload them?)
“That is also one thing we want to clarify with our port authority kung ano ba talaga mangyayari (What will really happen). Halos lahat ng gamit natin made in China na ngayon (Almost everything is made in China),” he said.
Filipino-Chinese businessmen “have faith in the vast potential and resilience of the Philippine economy and we shall continue to invest and reinvest due to the country’s good long-term potentials, regardless of this hopefully short-term coronavirus problem,” Lim said.
But if restrictions due to the virus drag for 4 to 5 months, the group will have to reevaluate its estimates, he said.