(UPDATED) Authorities raided a villa illegally operating as a makeshift medical facility for Chinese citizens suspected of being infected with the coronavirus at the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino in Clark.
The operation was conducted by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Regional Field Unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Central Luzon, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) on Tuesday, May 19.
Clark officials have ordered the closure and full lockdown of the leisure estate following the raid.
“This illegal activity not only violates the law, but also poses danger to individuals who potentially need medical treatment for the deadly disease. CDC does not and will never tolerate this inside the Clark Freeport,” the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), the mother agency of CDC, stated.
Arrested during the raid were two Chinese nationals identified as Ling Hu, 45, alleged owner of the hospital, and Seung-Hyun Lee, 38, an alleged pharmacist.
The suspects were taken to PNP Regional Office in Camp Olivas, City of San Fernando. Authorities said they may have been operating secretly for about three months.
“They have practiced medicine and prescribed drugs without a license,” Police Brigadier General Rhoderick Armamento said by telephone. “The Chinese patients who were brought there may still be walking around in public and can infect other people.”
Aside from the two suspects, one patient was also found during Tuesday's raid at the residential villa that had been illegally turned into a seven-bed hospital and drugstore, Armamento added.
The male Chinese patient was moved to a Philippine hospital.
More than 200 suspected coronavirus rapid test kits and syringes were recovered from trash cans at the villa.
The hospital and drugstore are in a large room by a swimming pool at the back of the compound, according to Armamento and a police video.
CDC said it will also hold the management of Fontana accountable for allowing this to happen within their property.
“We assure Clark stakeholders, the locators, local communities and residents especially, that we will not stop until all those involved are prosecuted and punished,” the BCDA added.
The villa is in the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone, a former US Air Force base turned into a commercial and leisure center with upscale residential enclaves northwest of Manila.
Most of the medical facility’s clients may have come from the large number of Chinese citizens working in online gambling outfits in Clark, Armamento said.
The Philippines, backed by the Chinese government, has launched a crackdown on Chinese who mostly entered the country as tourists and then worked for the online gambling operations, which are illegal in China. The outfits cater mostly to Chinese clients in mainland China.
Illegal Chinese workers are likely to avoid regular Philippine hospitals because they might be identified and arrested, Armamento said.
Police put the residential compound under surveillance after receiving a complaint that a person infected with the coronavirus was being treated there. They coordinated with Department of Health and FDA officials prior to the raid, a police report said.
Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar, who heads a national police force enforcing quarantine restrictions, told The Associated Press that the illegal hospital and drugstore could endanger patients instead of saving them because they do not conform with government health regulations and standards.
The Philippines has reported more than 13,200 coronavirus infections, including 842 deaths, among the highest number in Southeast Asia.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told an online Senate hearing Wednesday, May 20, that the Philippines is experiencing a second wave of infections after cases spiked and then eased in recent months.
Senators stressed the need for coronavirus tests to be ramped up to contain infections. (With AP/SunStar Philippines)