THE Consulate General of the Republic of China in Davao City reported that all Chinese tourists visiting the city had already returned to China on Sunday, February 2.

Consul-General Li Lin, in a press conference on Monday morning, February 3, said that based on his office’s latest communication with local travel agencies, they reported there is no Chinese tourist staying or stranded in the city.

This comes after Xiamen Airlines (Xiamen Air), which serves the direct flight between the cities of Jinjiang in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian and Davao City, announced it is suspending its direct flight for the month of February until further notice.

Initially, Xiamen Air announced on Friday, January 31, that the suspension will take effect between February 2 and 5. However, a day after it was also cancelled.

Lin said the flight cancellation was “mutually agreed” between the Consulate and the Davao City Government.

The Chinese official said this is to ensure public health and safety amid the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) outbreak that has recently become a global health emergency according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The situation involves necessary adjustment, but we will work very closely with the Davao City government, the local governments in Mindanao, and Xiamen Airline, and local tourists,” Lin said.

Prior to the flight cancellation, he said they already advised their countrymen to return to China immediately.

He also said those affected with the direct flight were assisted to fly to Manila, and take the Manila to Xiamen flight.

But he said they were not compelled, although he said they are not advised to stay further.

“If they want to stay, the problem is they cannot go back to China in the coming months,” Lin said.

Prior to the cancellation, Lin said the Chinese government, on January 23, had issued a directive to all outbound Chinese visitors heading to other countries for 14 days, including Davao City, to declare that they are not visitors from Wuhan.

Wuhan of Hubei province in China is declared by the World Health Organization as a “ground zero” or the virus’ point of origin.

He said they were all “medically cleared” by the Bureau of Quarantine in the Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao Airport).

President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered a temporary ban from tourists coming from the province to enter the country.

As of now, he cannot give the exact number of tourists coming in the city from the direct flight. However, he said the flight’s seating capacity is between 60 to 70 passengers.

He added he does not have any figure of the affected passengers who earlier booked a flight.

However, he said since the direct flight is not yet having favorable response from Davao tourists, as compared to other destinations.

Jinjiang-based Fujian Your Tour International Travel Agency noted a 40 to 50 percent increase of Chinese tourists visiting Davao City since the sisterhood agreement was signed.

“Before, there are only around 1,300 tourists who came to visit Davao every year because they had to stop over to Manila. But during the first half of 2019, the number has reached 4,000,” said Huang Mingyi, Fujian Your Tour president in a previous report.

However, Huang admitted that there seems to be an imbalance, as only few Dabawenyos had visited Jinjiang, a year since the direct flight was launched.

The City Tourism Operations Office (CTOO) recorded a 37.93-percent of Chinese tourists in the city in 2019 with 14,934 tourists, compared to 10,827 recorded in 2018.

CTOO head Generose Tecson previously said this can be attributed to the direct flight between Davao and Jinjiang.

Tecson also said the direct flight between Davao to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific, which has a five times weekly direct flight, had also contributed to the influx of Chinese tourists in the city.

Lin said he has no information on the possible suspension of the Davao to Hong Kong flights.

Meanwhile, he said there is no need to impose a travel ban or restriction. Even citing that WHO is also not supporting it.

He added that the public should not panic and must take precautionary measures in preventing the virus.

Lin also said they are in closely coordinating with different hospitals in the city and the region, wherein Chinese nationals are being placed under monitoring and investigation.