Manila, April 13, 2003 -- The Philippine government is postponing the visit 
of high ranking officials from China and Vietnam, two countries where the 
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is rampant.

A source said the Department of Foreign Affairs has rescheduled the visit 
of Wu Bangguo, chairman of the standing committee of the National People's 
Congress, from May 6 to 12 to the last week of July.

The source said the DFA is also likely to postpone the visit of Vietnamese 
Vice President Truoan My Hoa originally scheduled from April 27 to 30.

The new dates for the Wu and Truoan visits have not been specified.

Truoan had been invited by the Philippine government to visit the country 
and meet with her counterpart, Vice President Teofisto Guingona.

Wu, the No. 2 man in the Chinese political hierarchy, was to attend the 
turnover of the chairmanship of the Asian Parliamentary Union to Speaker 
Jose de Venecia, a recent visitor to Shanghai.

Wu was to have been accompanied by a delegation of about a hundred.

The DFA has already informed the Chinese embassy in Manila.

"We are awaiting a response from Beijing regarding this (postponement)," 
the source said.

Officials said the country is still SARS-free. But President Arroyo 
announced last week that the country now has its first "probable" case, an 
unnamed foreigner who has been commuting between Manila and Hong Kong.

Arroyo was told yesterday by Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit that blood 
samples of the 64-year-old foreigner would be sent to Japan to determine 
whether he was infected with the coronavirus said to be the cause of SARS.

He said the patient is now on a one-week additional stage of observation in 
a hospital in Manila.

Arroyo and Dayrit said there is still no need for a travel ban because 
strict quarantine and preventive procedures have been instituted by 
SARS-hit countries and the Philippines.

The Hong Kong government has already tightened its travel policy by asking 
residents with possible contact with a SARS case not to travel. Airlines 
are also told to medically screen their passengers.

Those found with high temperatures and coughs, among other SARS symptoms, 
will not be allowed to board.

Dayrit also asked NAIA general manager Edgardo Manda, who is now in Hong 
Kong, to procure a thermoscan so that incoming passengers to the 
Philippines could be checked for fever. He said this would be in addition 
to quarantine and immigration screenings in the country. (Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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