Reckless endangerment

Reckless endangerment

If foreigners living in the Philippines prefer to be treated by their compatriots in clinics that they themselves operate, they can do so – under normal circumstances.

Like nearly the entire planet, however, the Philippines is facing extraordinary circumstances. Extraordinary care is needed, particularly in all matters pertaining to public health. Those tasked to safeguard public health amid a coronavirus pandemic that has already killed 350,000 people and infected nearly 5.6 million others worldwide as of yesterday must be able to track all inhabitants of the country, Filipino and foreigner alike.

This task, difficult enough as it is, becomes impossible when foreigners operate health facilities underground – as several such establishments catering mainly to Chinese nationals are doing.

Last Tuesday afternoon, police raided yet another such facility, this time operating in Makati, and arrested two Chinese men, one of them supposedly a doctor. Four other Chinese men reportedly manifesting symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 were found in the Goldstar Clinic and Pharmacy Corp. The facility occupied the entire fifth floor of the New Lasema Spa Building along Sampaloc street in Barangay San Antonio. Its pharmacy contained medical supplies with labels all printed in Chinese.

The raid came on the heels of a similar one on May 19 on one of the villas at the Fontana Leisure Park in Clark, Pampanga. A Chinese patient was found seeking treatment for a cough and sore throat, and the raiders found rapid antibody test kits used for viral infections.

But the supervisor and supposed pharmacist, both Chinese, were freed with no cases filed against them because there is still no certification that the medical supplies were untested by the Food and Drug Administration. The villa is being used by Shidaikeji Technology Corp., a service provider for POGOs or Philippine offshore gaming operators, whose employees and clients are mostly Chinese.

In late April, police also raided two illegal clinics and a medicine stockroom in Baclaran, Parañaque, home to several POGOs and their service providers. The facilities were operated by Chinese nationals.

Operators, employees and clients of these facilities have been mingling with the general community since the start of the pandemic. How many have the coronavirus, and how many have they infected? Philippine authorities must not only try to find out, but also ensure that penalties are imposed on those who recklessly endanger public health. Republic Act 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, is supposed to apply to all – Filipino and foreigner alike.