MANILA – Senator Francis Tolentino on Thursday called on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to consider using vacant passenger ships as hospitals or temporary medical facilities amid the rising cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country.
“Given that a passenger ship’s capacity can reach up to 1, 200 passengers and since these are available now, with most of these vacant and docked in the Port of Manila, due to the travel restrictions, allowing these vessels to be used as temporary medical facilities will address the shortage of hospital spaces and will ease the burden of our hospitals and our health workers,” Tolentino said in a letter to DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade.
He said the move is in line with the recent enactment of the Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which empowers President Rodrigo Duterte to utilize passenger ships as quarantine hospitals due to the current shortage of hospital beds.
He also cited Sec. 24 of Republic Act No. 9295 or the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 as another basis for his proposal.
RA 9295 provides that “the State may temporarily take over or direct the operations or any vessel engaged in domestic trade and commerce, or prescribe its rates or routes of operation, in a state of national emergency and when required by public interest, under reasonable terms prescribed by it.”
In his proposal, Tolentino said at least three passenger vessels, one for each main island of the country, should be used as mobile hospitals after a number of private hospitals in Metro Manila recently declared that they have reached full capacity.
“This is to immediately alleviate the situation, in coordination with the Department of Health, by providing the three passenger vessels – one for Luzon (Manila Port), Visayas (Cebu Port) and Mindanao (Davao Port) to serve as hospital ships,” he said.
“Mas maganda gamitin natin ang mga barko na marahil ay nakadaong lang ngayon, para magamit ito ng ating mga health workers bilang mga ospital at titirhan nila (It is better if we utilize the ships which are just probably docked so that they can be used by health workers as hospitals or temporary residence),” Tolentino said. (IA/PNA)