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Military eyes Basilan’s Sibakil Island for quarantine of Filipinos from Sabah

/ 08:37 PM March 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines—The military has proposed Sibakil Island in Lantawan, Basilan as a quarantine area for Filipino passengers from Malaysia who were refused entry in Western Mindanao due to concerns brought by the COVID-19.

Lt. Gen. Cirilo Sobejana on Friday (March 20) said the plan has been prepared to convert Sibakil Island into a “quarantine controlled area.”

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National government agencies had “indicated support” for the proposal, he told reporters.

Two private vessels with 412 Filipino passengers from Sabah arrived at the ports of Maluso and Isabela City in Basilan on March 17.

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It was not clear if any of the passengers attended the tabligh Islamic gathering in Malaysia on Feb. 27 to March 1, which drew up to 16,000 people from 27 countries. Some reports said several participants contracted the virus that causes COVID-19.

The passengers were initially denied entry in Basilan due to fears over COVID-19 but 282 residents of Basilan were eventually allowed to disembark, Sobejana said.

There are still 131 persons, including 10 children, remaining in the vessels, he added.

Sobejana and officials of Basilan inspected the island on Thursday. Based on the assessment, he said it was appropriate as a quarantine site as it is “uninhabited with no existing structures.”

The military planned to build 100 tents on the island, with 50 tents expected to be transported on Friday.

Sobejana said the military expects the number of Filipinos returning from Sabah to increase “as they evade the threat of COVID-19 in Sabah and parts of Malaysia.”

Edited by TSB
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