BIATF seeks probe on tugboat voyage

By Mar S. Arguelles


The Bicol Inter Agency Task Force (BIATF) on Monday, July 19 has requested its national counterpart to conduct an investigation on breach of health protocols by maritime authorities at the port of Butuan in CARAGA region for allowing the tugboat and barge from Indonesia to sail to Albay on July 17 with 12 of its crew members who were tested positive for Covid-19.


Lawyer Anthony Nuyda, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional director and BIATF chair, at the joint meeting of the BIATF and the Regional Task Force (RTF) on Covid-19, presided the approval of a resolution requesting the national IATF to investigate the incident, where according to reports, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the Butuan City port permitted the tugboat and barge to sail despite the absence of the required negative swab test results from the local IATF in the area.


At the meeting, the mayors of Legazpi City and Sto. Domingo, Albay suggested that the tugboat and barge carrying coal shipment with 20 crews should not be allowed to dock and just remain anchored at sea.


Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal said that the vessel should be guarded and closely check the movements of the crew members and they should not be allowed to leave the ship.


The Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) of the Department of Health (DOH) recommended that as a measure to prevent the possible spread of the virus, the vessel and its crew would be placed under “Anchorage Quarantine,” where the crew would undergo the standard 14-day isolation procedures.


Health authorities said since the vessel and crew came from Indonesia the country where the Covid-19 Delta variant originated, all crew members would further be tested and be considered as “Delta” variant suspects until the whole-genomic sequencing procedure result is released.


The owner of the vessel in close supervision of the PCG was directed to fast track the unloading of the coal cargo since according to customs authorities the cargo is highly combustible and needs to be unloaded immediately.


An Incident Management Team (IMT) composed of health, transportation, civil defense, local government, and the owner of the vessel was created to manage and supervise the tactical operations.