Lorenzana favors postponing PMA alumni homecoming to avert novel coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense "supports" the Philippine Military Academy's (PMA) decision to temporarily close its campus in Baguio City to visitors and outsiders as a precaution against the novel coronavirus, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement on Tuesday night, February 4.

Lorenzana also suggested that the yearly PMA homecoming "be moved to a more auspicious date in the future" unless Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a PMA alumnus like Lorenzana, lifts the lockdown he imposed on the city by February 14.

The PMA alumni homecoming was originally set for February 13, 14, and 15.

Magalong announced on January 31 the cancellation of all big public activities in Baguio City, such as the opening of the Panagbenga Festival originally set for February 1.

Taking the cue from Magalong, PMA Superintendent Vice Admiral Allan Ferdinand Cusi closed the PMA campus, Fort Del Pilar, to the general public for at least 3 weeks. Only cadets' relatives are allowed to visit on weekends.

The PMA Alumni Association earlier insisted on pushing through with the homecoming as scheduled, but Lorenzana sided with Cusi, who wanted to postpone it.

"We deem it prudent to avoid situations where the health and safety of our cadets, PMA alumni, and their families are put at risk," Lorenzana said on Tuesday.

The Philippines has had two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, one of whom died on February 1. The Department of Health said on Tuesday it was probing 105 patients for the virus.

The novel coronavirus that originated from Wuhan, China, has so far killed 427 and sickened over 20,000 people across the country and worldwide. The World Health Organization already declared an international emergency over the virus. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.