Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Tuesday called for stricter measures to prevent the entry of a variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines as he enjoined the country to learn from the lessons of the last nine months.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go (OFFICE OF SEN. BONG GO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Huwag nating hayaang pumasok dito at kumalat sa ating bansa. Ulitin ko, lessons learned na tayo dito, sa nakaraang siyam na buwan,” Go said during an ambush interview right after he led the distribution of assistance to victims of tropical depression ‘’Vicky’’ in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur. (Let us not allow the entry of the COVID-19 variant into the country, I repeat, we have learned our lessons the past nine months).

Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, also recommended putting in place strict border control and necessary travel restrictions in seaports, especially after neighboring Sabah state in Malaysia reported the presence of another new COVID-19 variant. Sabah is just 29 hours of boat ride from the Sulu archipelago.

“Mas higpitan natin ang ating mga border. Hindi lang sa airport, pati ang seaport natin dahil nabalita na sa Sabah ay may findings na mayro’n nang new strain na nadiskubre,” Go said, adding “dapat strikto, pinaka strikto na pwede. Stricter measures po ang dapat gawin ng gobyerno at huwag tayong magkumpiyansa.” (We should adopt strict border controls. Not only in the airports, but seaports as well because a new strain was discovered in Sabah. We should adopt very strict measures. We should not be complacent.)

The Philippines has already suspended all flights from the U.K. starting last December 24 until the middle of January. The ban has been expanded that now covers twenty countries and territory already.

“Una rito ‘yung U.K. po, ‘no, in-extend na from December 31, in-extend na po ng another 2 weeks ‘yung pagba-ban,” Go said. (First banned was U.K., extended until December 31. Now, it was again extended for another two weeks.)

He emphasized that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) covered by the travel ban must be properly assisted and supported, especially those who have lost jobs and have nowhere to go but back home in the Philippines.

“’Yung mga OFWs ay papayagang umuwi pero sumunod lang dapat sa health protocols tulad ng mandatory quarantine measures. May quarantine po sila doon sa (New) Clark (City) para masiguradong malinis at hindi po sila apektado nitong new strain ng COVID-19 at hindi po makahawa dito sa ating bansa,” Go said. (OFWs would be allowed to come home but they should follow health protocols such as mandatory quarantine measures. They would be quarantined in the New Clark city where they would be kept clean and would not be affected by the new strain and would not infect the country. )

President Duterte has recently approved a proposal from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to impose travel restrictions on territories with reported cases of the new COVID-19 strain.

“’Yun po ay napag-usapan at nirekomenda kagabi at inaprubahan po ni Pangulong Duterte mismo. Nakausap ko rin po si Pangulong Duterte kanina, bago ako pumunta rito,” Go said during the interview. (That was what discussed and recommended and later approved by President Duterte himself. I also talked to the President before it came here.)

Go assured public that once a vaccine is proven safe and effective, poor and vulnerable sectors would be prioritized first, together with frontliners.

“At uulitin ko, pag meron na pong safe na vaccine ang FDA, uunahin namin ni Pangulong Duterte lahat ng mahihirap,” he said. (I repeat, President Duterte would give priority to the poor once a vaccine is declared safe by the FDA.)

Source: Manila Bulletin (