MANILA (UPDATED) - The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is set to start retrofitting a passenger terminal at the Manila South Harbor into a COVID-19 quarantine facility following a P100-million donation from the Lopez Group's First Philippine Holdings (FPH).
The Lopez-led company said it made the donation to support the transportation department's assistance to returning seafarers and overseas Filipinos, who need to undergo quarantine and treatment upon their return.
FPH senior vice president Lito Santos said the company is concerned for the estimated 35,000 seafarers and other overseas Filipino workers who may need to go back to the country after losing their jobs or being sent home due to the pandemic.
Santos said they expect the donation to help the DOTr in retrofitting the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal at the Manila South Harbor into a COVID-19 medical facility.
"We saw that this particular project that the DOTr has identified would be a good setup to house and quarantine this particular group of Filipinos coming in, particularly the seafarers and OFWs," Santos said.
The facility, inspected on Monday by government officials, is expected to house approximately 206 cubicles to treat COVID-19 patients, the DOTr said.
According to the Philippine Ports Authority, the facility will be provided with hospital and medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients, and will have "airtight doors to prevent aerosols containing COVID-19 from spreading."
Personnel from the Department of Health, as well as safety personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard "will render the necessary medical treatment" for patients brought to the facility, while PPA will provide additional staff.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said the facility is expected to help address the shortage of medical capacity particularly in the National Capital Region as well as nearby cities and provinces.
The Lopez company's letter of intent was addressed to Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade, PPA General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago, and to PCG Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia, the DOTr said in a statement.
"It is heartwarming to know that the medical needs of our OFWs, our returning modern-day heroes, remain to be top-of-mind. This is the least we can do for a sector who has played a significant role in enabling our economy over the years, especially at this time that uncertainty hangs over their hearts and minds," the DOTr quoted the FPHC letter as saying.
Tugade described the Lopez Group's gesture as "truly overwhelming."
"We are extremely grateful to the Lopez Group for this enormous help. Gagastahin natin ito ng naayon sa tama at nararapat. Maraming kababayan 'ho natin ang siguradong makikinabang dito," he said.
(We will spend this properly and justly. Many of our countrymen will benefit from this.)
"We will ensure that every centavo donated will be accounted for and spent according to its intended purpose," the PPA's Santiago said.
The DOTr partnered with private shipping companies to convert passenger ships into temporary quarantine facilities for returning seafarers and OFWs.
“This will go hand-in-hand with the Bayanihan Quarantine vessel, which has already started to accept Overseas Filipino Workers and returning seafarers on Sunday,” Santiago said.
Aside from the P100-million donation to the DOTr, First Philippine Holdings is also looking to partner with several Metro Manila hospitals to provide temporary quarters for their frontliners.
Santos, of the FPH, said that because of the lack of public transport, many hospital staff stay in the hospital itself.
"But if we're able to find temporary quarters for them, those particular rooms can be available for actual patients," Santos said.
The Lopez-led First Philippine Industrial Park (FPIP) is also providing free shuttle service to medical workers and other frontliners in two Batangas hospitals.
FPIP, located in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, said it is providing two shuttles to ferry the frontliners in Saint Francis Cabrini Medical Center in Santo Tomas, and Daniel Mercado Medical Center in Tanauan to and from their homes when their shifts end.
“Many of the 65,000 people employed by our locators typically seek medical services in Daniel Mercado and St Francis Cabrini; so we reached out to them offering assistance and this is what they said they needed, ” said FPIP COO Giles Puno.
The Philippines as of Monday logged 4,932 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 315 deaths and 242 recoveries.
ABS-CBN Corp is a member of the Lopez Group. News.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.