THE government is paying Dennis A. Uy-led shipping and logistics company 2GO Group, Inc. P35 million for the use of its two vessels to quarantine arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said.

Ito ho ay nirerentahan ng gobyerno, ‘yung two mga P35 million at mura naman yan… if you will compute it in terms of bed space and use,” Mr. Tugade said in a Laging Handa press briefing on Wednesday.

(The two vessels are being rented by the government at around P35 million, and that’s cheap if you compute it in terms of bed space and use.)

Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said the original rental price per ship was more than P120 million.

Ibinaba lang ng todo to help government (They reduced it to [P35 million] to help the government,” she added.

2GO’s two passenger vessels, which are being used as quarantine facilities, are docked at the Port Area in Manila.

Yung malaki, hindi lahat ng beds nagagamit dahil sa social distancing, ang magagamit lang ay 270 at this time. Sa maliit na barko ang kapasidad 135,” Mr. Tugade explained.

(Only 270 beds can be used on the large vessel because of the social distancing protocol while the small vessel provides 135 beds.)

The Department of Transportation came up with the quarantine ships to serve as temporary shelters for OFWs while they are on forced 14-day quarantine.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law on March 24 Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gives him authority to exercise powers “necessary and proper” to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The law states that “when the public interest so requires,” the President can direct the operation of any privately owned hospitals and medical and health facilities including passenger vessels and other establishments to house health workers; serve as quarantine areas or centers; and public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel and other persons; among others.

Provided, however, that the management and operation of such enterprises “shall be retained by the owners… who shall render a full accounting to the President or his duly authorized representative of the operations of the utility or business as basis for appropriate compensation.”

Provided, further, that “reasonable compensation for any additional damage or costs incurred by the owner or the possessor of the subject property solely on account of complying with the directive shall be given to the person entitled to the possession of such private properties or businesses after the situation has stabilized or at the soonest time practicable.” — Arjay L. Balinbin