490 Chinese POGO workers, tenants in Clark resort tested for coronavirus
PAMPANGA, Philippines – A total of 490 Chinese citizens working and residing inside the Fontana Leisure Parks in Clark Freeport Zone were tested for the novel coronavirus on Thursday, May 21.
A report from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Central Luzon Region 3 (CIDG-Region 3) said that the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing involved Chinese tenants in Fontana Leisure Parks and Chinese workers of the Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) inside the 300-hectare residential resort.
The testing started at 4 pm on Thursday and lasted until around midnight.
CIDG-3 operatives said they also collected the personal data of all those tested to gather information that could be used for contact tracing. Philippine Coast Guard personnel in full personal protective equipment conducted the swab tests.
The CIDG-3 report said that the collected specimen would be sent to the Philippine Red Cross laboratory in Mandaluyong City. They expected the test results would be available within 2 to 3 weeks.
It said that the mass testing of the POGO workers and residents of Fontana Leisure Parks was the result of the the discovery on May 18 of an unregistered health facility and pharmacy inside one of the resort’s villas.
Immediately after the detection of the illegal makeshift hospital for Chinese citizens suspected of infection with the coronavirus, the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) placed Fontana under full lockdown.
The state-owned CDC has jurisdiction over Fontana.
What about the Filipinos in Fontana? Rappler learned from reliable sources that some 70 Filipino employees of the POGO and other tenant establishments inside Fontana Leisure Parks were not tested for COVID-19.
“Obviously, the Filipino workers had contacts with the Chinese subjected to mass testing. What if some of them are COVID-19 positive? We do not have information if these Filipino workers will also be swab-tested,” a source said.
Another source disclosed that about 15 delivery personnel were stranded inside the residential resorts after it was placed under total lockdown on May 20.
“Nandun lang ang mga delivery boys sa labas. Wala silang tulugan. Na-trap sila dito sa loob ng Fontana nung mag-lockdown,” the source said. (The delivery boys are still there outside the facility. They don't have place to stay. They were trapped in Fontana when they ordered the lockdown.)
Rappler tried to get comments from the CDC about situation of the Filipino workers in Fontana and the stranded delivery personnel. The state-owned corporation has yet to respond as of filing.
On May 18, CIDG-3 operatives and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) personnel raided villa No. 628 along Florida St. in Fontana Leisure Parks which was being used as a makeshift hospital and pharmacy.
Colonel Amante Daro, CIDG-3 regional officer, said that prior to the police operation, his office had received a letter of complaint from a concerned citizen that a COVID-19 patient was “undergoing medical attention” inside the Fontana villa, which was also being used as a pharmacy offering Chinese-labeled drugs and related items not approved by the FDA.
A team composed of the Central Luzon offices of the FDA, the Department of Health, CIDG and CDC raided the illegal makeshift hospital and pharmacy and arrested 2 Chinese citizens identified as Hu Ling, 45, supervisor of the illegal makeshift medical facility, and Lee Seung Hyun, 38, pharmacist.
The 2 suspects were brought to the CIDG-3 headquarters in Camp Olivas in the City of San Fernando.
Daro said that Hu and Lee were tested for COVID-19 while in detention at the CIDG-3 headquarters.
The 2 suspects are facing charges for violation of Republic Act 9711, the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, and violation of RA 2382, the Medical Act of 1959.
CDC placed the Fontana under total lockdown as a result of the discovery of the makeshift hospital and pharmacy.
In a letter dated May 20 to Fontana Development Corporation, general manager Wu Shuiqing, CDC president and chief executive officer Noel Manankil said that the resort “is hereby placed under Full Lockdown which requires all sublessees/tenants and residents to be contained in the complex until lifted by the CDC.”
Manankil, who cited the “illegal operation of a medical facility for Chinese patients” inside the resort, also ordered the Fontana management “to explain within 24 hours” why its certificates of registration and tax exemption should not be revoked permanently and its lease agreement cancelled.
The raid was conducted just days after Pampanga transitioned into modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), after two months under ECQ.
It was not the first time that Fontana figured in a controversy. In December 2016, the resort's casino was shut down following the arrest of 1,240 illegal Chinese workers inside the leisure park in a Bureau of Immigration operation.
Fontana is owned by Macau gaming tycoon Jack Lam, who was in the Philippine spotlight in December 2016 when two Bureau of Immigration officials were accused of extorting P50 million from him for the release of the detained Chinese casino workers. – Rappler.com