MANILA - The mayor of Capas, Tarlac on Sunday said the town welcomes the Filipinos who returned from new coronavirus epicenter Wuhan in China after he initially urged government to consider another quarantine site for the repatriates.
Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan issued a statement after the Department of the Interior and Local Government said it could sanction local officials who would block the arrival of the returning Filipinos set for a 14-day quarantine at the Athletes' Village in New Clark City (NCC) in Capas.
"We in Capas, offer our home, our sympathy, and prayers for the health of our fellow Filipinos at sana po magkaroon na ng permanenteng solusyon para sa NCoV (and hopefully, there will already be a permanent solution for the NCoV)," Catacutan said in a statement posted on the town's official Facebook account.
"We Filipinos, always help each other at wala pong makakapagpabago doon (and nothing can change that). Only wrong information can destroy a relationship as strong as what Filipinos have," added the official, who issued the remarks from Germany.
Catacutan said the lack of coordination by higher authorities with Capas officials regarding the decision to utilize the NCC as quarantine place triggered his "initial reaction" asking President Rodrigo Duterte and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to consider another isolation facility or area.
"We were blindsided. And we owed it to our people na mag-explain sa kanila pero wala kaming full information the very moment na lumabas po ito sa national news (And we owed it to our people to explain to them, but we don't have full information the very moment it came out in the national news)," Catacutan said of the national government's decision to drop the drug rehabilitation facility in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija in favor of the NCC as quarantine area.
"Nagkaroon po ng spread of fear at fake news. Una dahil hindi po kami nainform, at hindi namin nai-relay sa mga tao."
("Fear and fake news have spread, primarily, because we were not informed, and we weren't able to relay it to the people.")
Catacutan said Capas residents questioned the decision to use the NCC, which was used for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, and its impact on the venue.
"Ano kaya ang magiging future ng NCC kung magiging quarantine zone ito at biglang may magpositive. Ang NCC na ginastusan po ng napakalaki ng national government at ipinagmalaki natin bilang world-class facility. Baka masayang at magkaroon ng stigma o irreversible negative image bilang quarantine zone," he said.
("What will be the future of NCC if it becomes a quarantine zone and suddenly, somebody turns out to be positive? The national government spent a lot for the NCC, and we take pride of it as a world-class facility. If it becomes a quarantine zone, it may leave some stigma and an irreversible negative image.")
"Ang reaksyon po ng mga tao sa Capas ay hindi po akto ng pagiging maramot kundi pruweba na ganito ang nangyayari kapag hindi naiintindihan ng mga tao ang sitwasyon, problema at solusyon. Sila ay nagpapanic, natatakot, nagagalit at umaalma."
("The reaction of the people of Capas is not an act of selfishness, but rather a proof that this thing happens if people do not understand the situation, the problem, and the solution. They are panicking, fearful, angry and complaining.")
The town has no authority over the NCC, which is operated by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, but locals deserved to be informed, Catacutan said.
"Hindi po liability ang community kung sila ay well-informed, mas makakatulong po sila kung aware sila," he said.
("The community is not a liability if it is well-informed. They can even be of help if they are made aware.")
The Philippines repatriated on Sunday morning 29 adult and one infant Filipinos from Wuhan amid the growing casualties from and cases of the 2019-nCoV infection in China.
They were immediately brought to the Athletes' Village for the 14-day mandatory quarantine.
The country has so far reported three confirmed 2019-nCoV cases, involving Chinese nationals who traveled from Wuhan. One of them died, marking the first nCoV-related fatality outside of mainland China, while the other one has already returned to China.