Tolentino to DOTr: Provide hospital ships for Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis Tolentino is urging Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to provide three vessels, one each for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to serve as hospital ships amid the overcrowding now in hospitals treating patients who have acquired the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The senator made this request to Tugade in a letter dated Thursday.
“In view of the passage and enactment the other day of Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, empowering the President to utilize passenger ships as quarantine hospitals due to the current shortage of hospital beds, may I request the Honorable Secretary, consistent with the oversight functions of the Congress, to immediately alleviate the situation (in coordination with the Department of Health) by providing the three passenger vessels,” Tolentino said.
He wants the vessels deployed to the Manila Port in Luzon, Cebu Port in the Visayas, and the Davao Port in Mindanao as hospital ships.
Citing Section 4(h) of RA11469, Tolentino said President Rodrigo Duterte is authorized “consistent with Section 17, Article XII of the Constitution, when the public interest so requires, to direct the operation of any privately-owned hospitals and medical and health facilities, including passenger vessels and other establishments, to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief, and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities.”
He said this finds another legal basis on 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 of any vessel engaged in domestic trade and commerce.”
The lawmaker further noted that given that a passenger ship’s capacity can reach up to 1,200 passengers and the availability of these vessels, most of which are docked at the Port of Manila, due to travel restrictions, allowing these vessels to be used as temporary medical facilities—as they are fully equipped with rooms, offices, and kitchens—will address the shortage of hospital spaces.
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