Philippines keeps ports open to all ships despite virus fears

February 5, 2020 - 7:03 PM
Philippine ship
Undated photo of a docked Philippine ship. (Philippine Information Agency/Released)

MANILA — The Philippines said on Wednesday its ports remain open to all ships, even those from China, in order not to disrupt the cargo supply chain, but the crew of vessels arriving from the coronavirus-hit nation will be barred from disembarking.

All foreigners traveling from China and its two special administrative regions—Hong Kong and Macau—are currently barred from entering the country amid a fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak that has killed nearly 500 people in China.

A Chinese man who arrived from China’s Wuhan city, where the virus emerged last year, has also died in the Philippines.

Concerns about possible delays in shipments of Philippine nickel ore to China as a result of the port restrictions added to the upward pressure on nickel prices.

“As far as the ships are concerned, as far as the cargoes are concerned, we are business as usual,” said Jay Daniel Santiago, general manager at Philippine Ports Authority, allaying worries about delays in port operations.

He said ports, particularly in the Philippine capital Manila, are “fully mechanized” to facilitate cargo loading and unloading with minimal human intervention.

Nickel ore miners in the country, a major source of the raw material for stainless steel production in China, usually resume shipments to their Chinese customers beginning March or April, after a seasonal stoppage starting the last quarter of the previous year.

“We have not yet started shipping out nickel ore, but we anticipate this virus outbreak in China would have no impact on the demand side,” Dante Bravo, president of Global Ferronickel Holdings Inc, the Philippines‘ second-largest nickel ore producer and exporter, told Reuters.

“We believe this issue will be resolved soon given all the contingency measures put in place by all the parties concerned,” he said.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Louise Heavens