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Vice President Leni Robredo welcomed the temporary travel ban ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte on all visitors coming in from mainland China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau.

Robredo, who was already calling for the said ban last week, called the President’s decision a “welcome development”, but added that this should have been done much earlier—noting how there were still direct flights from Wuhan in China by late January, weeks after it was announced to be the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

Duterte only ordered a travel ban on Wuhan and the Hubei province, where the city is located, last January 31. By then, it had been days since the province was placed on lockdown.

“Sana lang naaga-agahan, pero welcome pa din, kahit nahuli, kasi nakakatulong ito,” she said on her weekly radio show.

The Vice President said imposing the travel ban is part of the government’s assurance to the people, amid confusion and fear over the spread of the virus.

“Tingin natin kung naaga-agahan sana, mas nabawasan ‘yung panic ng mga tao,” she said. “Kung mas maaga lang nakapag-react dito na temporary—temporary langnaman—temporarily isu-suspend [ang entry mula] sa mga lugar na mataas ‘yung incidence ng contamination ng virus, mas hindi sana takot ‘yung tao.”

Robredo noted that the earlier claim of the government of putting protocols in place upon the visitors’ arrival was a more difficult undertaking, as it required steps like the 14-day quarantine and contact tracing on confirmed cases.

She also underscored that this move is not aimed at discrimination: “’Yung temporary suspension, hindi ito pag-discriminate against anyone, pero ‘yung sa atin, para ma-contain ‘yung virus spread.”

Amid reported incidents of such, Robredo likewise called on Filipinos to show compassion instead of judging Chinese nationals, including those residing in the country.

“’Wag namang huhusgahan ‘yung lahat na mga Chinese citizens, ‘yung lahat na bumibisita dito sa atin… Tama na nag-iingat tayo, tama na temporarily suspended ‘yung mga flights. Pero ito po, walang iisang may kasalanan dito, kaya tayo, magtulungan,” she said. “[H]indi po nakakatulong ‘yung paghuhusga sa iba pang mga nakakasalamuha natin, kasi pare-pareho lang naman po tayo.”

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