Over 100 passengers stranded in Manila port may travel home if they test negative for COVID

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2022 09:14 AM | Updated as of Jan 23 2022 01:29 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) — The government has allowed 117 Zamboanga City-bound passengers to travel, after they were stranded for over a week at the Manila North Port Passenger Terminal due to the "no vaccine, no ride" policy and incomplete requirements, an official said Sunday.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Santiago said the passengers were barred from traveling because they were unable to present vaccination cards and RT-PCR test results required by the local government of their destination.

But out of compassion, the Department of Transportation has allowed the stranded passengers to travel on Monday (Jan. 24) after many of them received jabs from the Manila city government, Santiago told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

"Dahil nga kino-consider na going back to residences ay essential travel, puwede na rin siguro nating i-consider na ang kanilang situwasyon ay isa sa exemptions," he said.

(Because we consider going back to residences as an essential travel, we can also consider their situation as an exemption.)

The local government of Zamboanga City also agreed to accept the passengers, but they must first present a negative antigen test result, said Santiago, adding that the test would be conducted before the passengers board their ship.

Santiago stressed that the exemption was given only to the Zamboanga City-bound passengers and asked the public "not to take advantage" of such privilege from the "no vaccine, no ride" policy.

The "no vaccine, no ride" is being strictly implemented in ports across the country, Santiago said.

"Sa gate pa lang ng ating terminal, pantalan, hinahanap na po iyan (proof of vaccination) ng ating security personnel bago papasukin ang mga kababayan natin," he said.

(At the gates of our terminal, ports, security personnel ask for proof of vaccination before letting people in.)

Santiago, however, admitted that port authorities could not check the authenticity of vaccination cards and appealed to the public to refrain from using fake documents.

Meanwhile, some Iloilo City-bound passengers experience difficulty in entering the North Port Passenger Terminal due to lack of the sPass document.

“Yung pumunta ako Iloilo, lahat andun sa port. Yung sPass, andun na din... Now, nahihirapan ako kumuha ng sPass kasi need ko pa kumontak ng LGU dun,” said Gigi Villoño, who arrived at the port as early as 4 a.m., complete with her vaccination card and a negative swab test result except an approved sPass application.

"Alam ko merong sPass. Pero (ang) pagkakamali ko, 'di ko alam I need to contact ang LGU sa Iloilo, from Iloilo, dali-dali kasi dire-diretso,” she added.

(When I last went to Iloilo, everything was at the port, including the sPass processing... Now, it's difficult for me to get an sPass because I still need to contact the LGU there... I am aware of the sPass requirement. My only fault is I didn't know I need to contact the LGU in Iloilo.)

Because she does not know how to secure an sPass document on her own, Villoño sought the help of a man for a P150 fee.

“Kahit meron po silang phone, 'yung iba, 'di sila marunong gumawa. Napipilitan sila magpagawa sa amin gawa ng gusto makauwi,” the man said.

(Although they have smart phones, others don't know how to get an sPass document. They are forced to ask us to do it for them because they really want to go home.)

The Iloilo City government announced last Jan. 12 that all inbound travelers need to present an approved sPass application upon arrival at the local airport and seaport.

Since it was still early in the morning, Villoño waited for almost two hours before getting her approved sPass application.

All passengers who eventually secured their approved sPass document were able to enter the terminal, except for Gina Rosindel who was still waiting for her application result.

“Papakita ko sana resibo ko sa swab. 'Di hinonor nila. Ang ano ko lang sana na makaakyat lang ako kasi fully vaccinated ako at maka-swab lang ako. Dun ko na process sa barko i-process 'yung requirements ko. Naghahabol naman makasakay ako," she said.

(I just want to show my swab test receipt. But they are not honoring it. I just want first to get on board because I'm fully vaccinated anyway and had my swab test already. And then, I'll just process my other requirements when I'm aboard the ship already. I just need to get on it first.)

Rosindel hopes the government will just do away with the sPass requirement if passengers are able to present other relevant documents.

“Pahirap pa kasi kumpleto ka na, iprop-rocess mo pa sa kanila. Eh dito, napakita na ok na, wala ng hassle. Papakita mo naman dito. 'Wag na.
May swab test ka na, 'di na dapat kailangan sa LGU pa. Tapos, fully vaccinated ka naman,” she said.

(It's an additional burden that you have to process. We've shown here that it's possible to have no more hassle. You have a swab test already, so there shouldn't be another requirement from the LGU. And, you're fully vaccinated anyway.)

Iloilo City is currently under COVID-19 Alert Level 3, and it stays until the end of the month.

The sPass can be processed online, with travelers required to present one valid government-issued ID, confirmed travel itinerary from an airline or shipping company, and other relevant document.

Generally, the implementation of the 'no vaccine, no ride' policy at the Manila North Port Passenger Terminal is going well, according to its security personnel, who note that only a few unvaccinated passengers attempt to enter the facility.

PPA VACCINATION AND COVID CASES

Meanwhile, Santiago reported that 92 percent of PPA personnel have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Around 135 individuals from the PPDA's head office also tested positive for COVID-19 during the most recent surge in infections, most of them asymptomatic or experiencing only mild symptoms, according to him.

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- with report from Anna Cerezo, ABS-CBN News