PH soldiers from Liberia to be quarantined on island, not Tarlac
CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga—Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said Monday the 112 Filipino United Nations peacekeepers scheduled to be pulled out from Ebola-stricken Liberia will get a “well-deserved vacation in an island paradise” when they arrive in the country on Nov. 10 and 14.
This 21-day holiday developed after Catapang canceled on Monday a plan to quarantine them at the base of the Philippine Peacekeeping Operations Center (PKOC) in Capas town in Tarlac province.
“There is nothing to worry about. We are not continuing the plan. While Ebola is not airborne, we do not want to unnecessarily burden the people of Tarlac,”Catapang said when sought for comment on separate resolutions passed by the Tarlac provincial board and the province’s mayors opposing the plan.
He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines was still looking for an island where the soldiers could be isolated from the rest of the population while they are quarantined.
In opposing the use of Capas as a quarantine area, the provincial board and the mayors cited the safety of their constituents, Gov. Victor Yap told the Inquirer in a telephone interview on Monday.
The board and the mayors issued the resolutions a week before the peacekeepers are arrive in the Philippines. President Aquino had ordered their pullout from the West African country due to the outbreak of Ebola.
Aside from the PKOC, the military camp in Capas also hosts the Mechanized Infantry Division and the Training and Doctrine Command.
Told of the AFP decision, Yap said: “I am grateful that the national leadership has reconsidered setting up a quarantine system for Ebola here in Tarlac. I am sure they now have a more viable and secure area.”
The AFP, Yap said, has not presented any plan in the event one of the returning soldiers is proven to be ill with the Ebola virus. The provincial government has yet to begin a full-scale education campaign on Ebola.
“We’d like to know if it is going to be an AFP policy to be using Capas as quarantine site in future cases,” Yap said.
Rene Romero, head of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Northern Luzon, said the business sector in the provinces of Tarlac and Pampanga is alarmed about choice of Capas as quarantine area.
“It can give a big negative impact on business and tourism. We would like to appeal to the AFP to bring the… peacekeepers to another area where it is isolated and safe. We have 7,100 islands, perhaps they quarantine them in one of our islands with no or low population,” Romero said.
It was not known if the returning troops are entering the Philippines via the Clark International Airport in Pampanga on a chartered flight.
Capas Mayor Antonio Rodriguez confirmed he received an advice from the President about the use of Capas as a quarantine area. Tarlac is Mr. Aquino’s home province.
The World Health Organization said new Ebola infections have been slowing in Liberia but warned that the crisis was far from over.
According to WHO, the majority of the 4,922 deaths were in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
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