SUBIC BAY FREEPORT— Embattled Subic Bay International Terminal Corporation (SBITC) has recorded fifteen (15) more Covid-19 positive workers, bringing the total to 29, up from fourteen (14) in a matter of days since the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) revealed the dire situation in the container terminal on Monday.
There is no plan yet, however, to temporarily shut down the terminal as SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma instead offered its community isolation facility at the Subic gymnasium for the care and isolation of SBITC workers who have tested positive of the new coronavirus disease.
“If more Covid-19 cases are discovered among SBITC workers, and if local medical facilities can no longer accommodate them, then we offer the Subic gym community isolation facility,” Eisma said.
The container terminal has a total of 124 employees, according to an earlier press statement of SBITC president Roberto Locsin, thus, the number of Covid-19 positive workers already comprise more than 20% of its workforce.
However, there are other non-SBITC personnel working or doing business in the terminal, including port users, security personnel, canteen staff, and SBMA checkers.
The SBMA has ordered SBITC to have all its employees tested through reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in order to prevent a total shutdown of operations.
Eisma said she sounded off in a meeting on Wednesday with officials of the Department of Health (DOH), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Subic Bay International Terminal Corporation (SBITC) the offer to use the community isolation facility at the Subic gymnasium to defuse the health crisis at the Subic container port.
“This is a situation that could blow bigger, but by isolating those who tested positive, we can help arrest local transmission. Otherwise, the contagion would spread and may get out of hand. We don’t want that to happen,” she added.
The Subic gym, which has just been refurbished last year as venue for the Southeast Asian Games, has been converted by the SBMA into a 32-bed care and isolation facility complete with work and rest quarters for medical care personnel.
Eisma said the SBITC may use the facility at its own expense, as the DOH has not yet designated any level-2 hospital in the community to manage it as a Covid-19 facility.
The facility became a DOH-certified community isolation unit for Covid-19 cases effective July 29, 2020, under a certificate signed by Dr. Cesar Cassion, director of the DOH Central Luzon Center for Health Development.
Aside from the Subic gym, the SBMA also transformed the six-storey Leciel Hotel building into an additional care and isolation facility with 81 rooms. This, however, is still awaiting DOH accreditation.
The Subic container port terminal, as run by SBITC, has remained operational throughout the different stages of quarantine imposed in the Freeport due to the pandemic.
But despite having no manifestation from SBMA officials and SBITC management of plans to temporarily halt operations, the sudden spike of Covid-19 positive cases among SBITC workers may yet force a shutdown that will heavily impact various businesses here and abroad.
SBITC services cargo ships from China, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, among others, as well as truckers and haulers from all over Luzon. (VVV)