THE Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) has directed the different joint task force commanders to intensify maritime patrols to deny entry of all ships carrying passengers, particularly from Sabah to the Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Zambasulta) areas.
Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan, Jr., commander of Westmincom, issued the order to prevent the outbreak of the new variant of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) known as Sars-CoV-2, which originated in the United Kingdom and has been recently detected in Sabah, Malaysia.
Vinluan has also directed the commanders of the task forces to coordinate efforts with local government units (LGUs) to support the local chief executives in their respective Covid-19 protocols.
Commodore Toribio Adaci, Jr., commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said they have deployed vessels to intensify border patrol operations and closely monitor all watercraft in the southern border of the country.
Adaci said the move aims to assist LGUs and local government agencies in the area to prevent the possible spread of the Sars-CoV-2 variant here in Western Mindanao.
He said his command has four vessels in Tawi-Tawi that were deployed to patrol the maritime areas from Taganak Island down to Sibutu Island, which are the ingress points of incoming vessels from Malaysia.
Adaci said that another patrol vessel departed from Zamboanga City to augment the four ships stationed in the province of Tawi-Tawi.
He said they will undertake the border patrol operations jointly with other agencies like the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police-Maritime Group in implementing the guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
He noted that all inbound passengers aboard vessels entering through the southern backdoor shall be brought to the nearest LGU for quarantine based on the latest pronouncement of the IATF on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
A locally based shipping firm plies once a week the Zamboanga-Malaysia route via the City of Sandakan in Sabah.
However, the management of the shipping firm has decided to suspend the voyage trip from this city to Malaysia after news broke out about the new strain of the virus. (SunStar Zamboanga)