China seeks suspension of group tours to Davao amid coronavirus scare

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 Jan) – The Chinese government has requested travel agencies to stop organizing group tours to this city starting Monday, January 27, until further notice in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus in Mindanao, a top diplomat disclosed.

Davao Chinese Consul General Li Lin at the consulate office in Davao City. MindaNews file photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Davao Consul General Li Lin said their government asked Chinese travel agencies to suspend group tours for the Jinjiang-Davao air route, which started operating in late 2018, in the wake of the new illness whose pathogen is tentatively called 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov).

The request does not cover individual travels, he added.

Jinjiang, which is part of Fujian province, and Davao City signed a sisterhood agreement to boost bilateral, tourism and trade ties in November 2018.

Li assured the Chinese government “is tackling the new pneumonia-like illness the best that it can.”

“We have the confidence in controlling the disease,” the envoy told MindaNews.

So far, Li said that only outbound flights from Wuhan City in the central Chinese province of Hubei have been stopped, where the coronavirus that killed at least 81 persons was traced.

Health authorities across the globe are on high alert with the spread of the virus to the United States, Japan, Canada, France, Australia, Nepal, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea.

Li said some staff members of the Chinese Consulate General’s office in Davao vacationing in China due to the Spring Festival holiday have been advised to avoid visiting the areas most affected by the coronavirus before returning here.

As part also of the precautionary measures to curb the spread of the virus in the southern Philippines, Li said that individual passengers have been required to have their body temperatures taken before boarding the plane and were also advised to wear protective masks.

In November, Luo Guansheng, deputy director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Fujian Provincial People’s Government, cited the growing tourism and trade ties between Fujian and Mindanao with the opening of the Jinjiang-Davao direct flight.

Luo said that Fujian province, considered as the gateway to China’s Maritime Silk Road, received at least 10,000 Filipino travelers in the first nine months of 2019.

Huang Yiming, president of the Fujian Your Tour International Travel Agency Co. Ltd., said that at least 4,000 Chinese tourists visited Davao City in the first half of 2019.

The air route between the cities of Jinjiang and Davao is being served by Chinese airline XiamenAir twice a week.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte earlier said the sisterhood pact between the cities of Davao and Jinjiang seeks to establish cooperation in the fields of tourism, trade, culture, education and technology, among others.

“[The sisterhood ties] will foster an exchange of ideas on identified fields and bring the people of our two cities closer, [thus] strengthening the bilateral ties between our two nations even further,” she said in a statement.

Besides Jinjiang in southeastern China, Davao City earlier forged a sisterhood pact with China’s Nanning City, the capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

This city and the municipality of Chongqing in southwest China also agreed last year to enter into a sisterhood agreement to boost their relations. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)