SBMA to impose maximum fine for quarantine violation

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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT–The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said it will not hesitate to impose maximum penalties for any violation of health and safety protocols at the port.

In a statement, the SBMA said it will fine a shipping agency in Olongapo City after a disembarked foreign seaman sponsored by said agency repeatedly violated safety protocols at a quarantine hotel here.

Wilma Eisma, SBMA Chairman and Administrator, said SBMA will impose the highest penalty under the law to Thyverse Marine and Shipping Agency, an accredited operator in the Freeport, for being negligent in controlling its off-signer.

“We cannot tolerate any violation of health and safety protocols because our mandate is to ensure that all stakeholders in the Subic Bay Freeport adhere to the rules laid down by the IATF,” Eisma said.

“There are rules, which are for everyone’s safety, and we will see to it that they are obeyed,” she added.

The crewman was identified as Zaw Oo, who disembarked in Subic from the cargo ship M/V Voyager Elite. He was identified by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Crew Change, which manages the government’s crew-change hub in the Freeport.

Zaw Oo was quarantined at Horizon Hotel on February 25. Though the crewman did not leave the hotel premises, he reportedly went out of his room several times in violation of quarantine rules.

Hotel staff also told the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) that the foreign off-signer has argued with hotel housekeepers and sometimes appeared intoxicated.

Off-signers are required to take an Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test upon arrival in Subic, then proceed to a quarantine hotel where they are supposed to stay inside their rooms all the time. They will take another confirmatory RT-PCR test five days later before they can be cleared by the BOQ for release to their final destination.

In a letter dated February 28, Lt. Napoleon Veneracion II, commander of the IATF Crew Change One-Stop-Shop in Subic, told Thyverse president Jason Lacbain that a review of CCTV footage in the hotel indicated “that the said off-signer went out of his room several times.”

Veneracion added that Zaw Oo’s quarantine period has been set back to day one effective February 28 because of the violation.

Under the rules set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), violation of health and safety protocols carries a P5,000 fine.

Eisma said she has instructed concerned SBMA departments to prepare the notice of violation and bill Thyverse Marine for the infraction.

The Subic Bay Freeport has served as crew-change hub since September last year in order to help ease the current congestion in Manila Bay where merchant ships with Filipino crewmen await their turn to disembark their crew and take in fresh personnel.

Under this setup, inbound seafarers are quarantined in local hotels after their RT-PCR test. Eisma said the SBMA insists on strict health and safety protocols to keep Subic a safe haven for both residents and visitors.

Currently, the Subic Bay Freeport has registered zero active cases of COVID-19.

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