MANILA (UPDATE) - Philippine immigration authorities are working to decongest its detention facility located in the capital Manila to reduce the risk of an outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) among foreign nationals being detained there, the agency said Wednesday.
Deportation cases have been ordered expedited, and granting of bail and release via recognizance for those with pending court cases may be considered, the Bureau of Immigration said in a statement.
"We don’t want COVID-19 transmissions to happen in our facility. We will work double time to deport aliens, especially for wards that are considered health risks," Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in the statement.
According to Morente, overcrowding in the facility, which currently has 418 detainees, exposes both the inmates and their guards to the risk of getting infected with the virus.
Immigration spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval told ABS-CBN News that the BI Warden Facility (BIWF), located inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, is designed only for 140 detainees. But it has big open spaces, such as a covered court and common areas, where detainees can move around.
The facility was already placed on lockdown and visitation has been temporarily disallowed.
To speed up the deportation process of some detainees, Morente directed the agency's legal officers to submit appropriate recommended resolutions for pending cases, and to expedite the implementation of existing deportation orders, including securing of necessary clearances for their departure.
The bureau had already released three pregnant women who are considered high-risk for COVID-19. Two were released on bail, and one was deported, according to the statement.
Precautionary measures implemented in the facility include the setting up of a 24/7 internal health hotline, the permanent assignment of a medical officer, advising wards to always take a bath and follow proper handwashing and other sanitation guidelines, and disinfection of vehicles that enter the facility's compound, among others.
BIWF chief Remiecar Caguiron disclosed in the statement that sanitation tents and foot baths were put in place to sanitize entering personnel.
Coordination with embassy representatives and the International Committee of the Red Cross are also being made, it said.
As of Wednesday, none of the foreign detainees have contracted the disease, Sandoval said.
The Philippines has logged 6,599 cases of the disease, as of Tuesday, of which, 654 patients have recovered and 437 died.