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DOTr In Talks with 2GO on Floating Quarantine Hospitals

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Monday said that coordination is ongoing between the DOTr and private shipowners in the country regarding the plan to set up floating quarantine hospitals for COVID-19 patients.

Tugade said that the floating quarantine facilities may be installed with the necessary medical equipment and could be deployed in any part of the country. Logistics and supply ships could also be deployed to complement the floating hospitals, he added.

He cited Section 4 of the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” in saying that President Rodrigo Duterte has the power to “direct the operation of any privately-owned passenger vessels to serve as temporary medical facilities.”

Senator Francis Tolentino also proposed to the DOTr the deployment of at least three hospital ships in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The government is in discussion with Davao businessman Dennis Uy-led shipping and logistics firm 2GO Group Inc. for its plan to convert passenger ships into floating quarantine hospitals for COVID-19 patients as the number of confirmed cases continues to increase in the country.

In the Viber message on Thursday, Transportation Assistant Secretary for communications Goddes Libiran said his department, the Philippine Ports Authority, and the Philippine Coast Guards were “in talks with 2GO” on this matter.

“We will update once details are finalized,” Libiran said.

Aside from the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the lawmaker said that the move also has a legal basis in Section 24 of Republic Act No. 9295 or the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 which provides that: “In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during emergencies and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operations or any vessel engaged in domestic trade and commerce.”

The bed capacities of several public and private hospitals are being overtaken by the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. To manage the cases better, the Department of Health also plans to designate selected hospitals that will exclusively cater to COVID-19.