People wearing protective face masks walk past a cat-shaped lantern during the lunar lanterns festival following the Lunar New Year in Taipei on February 8, 2020.
AFP/Sam Yeh
Taiwan says it is 'wrongly included' in Philippines' expanded COVID-19 travel ban
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - February 12, 2020 - 5:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — Taiwan’s representative office in the Philippines slammed the island’s inclusion in the travel restrictions aimed at China over the deadly novel coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines said Taiwan was “wrongly included” in the government’s expanded travel ban.

“We urge the Philippine government to immediately correct its decision on Taiwan and remove Taiwan from the travel ban,” TECO said.

Early in February, President Rodrigo Duterte first issued a travel ban on foreign nationals coming from China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.

Taiwan was later on added since the World Health Organization recognizes the self-ruled democracy as part of China.

TECO stressed that Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, is a “sovereign and independent state.”

“Taiwan issues its own passport and visas and has exclusive jurisdiction over its people and territory. In fact, Taiwan is not, nor has it ever been, part of the People’s Republic of China,” the agency said.

China views Taiwan as its own territory—part of “one China”—and has vowed to eventually take the island, by force if necessary.

“It is a factual error for the World Health Organization to regard Taiwan as a part of the PRC. The Philippines should not be misled by WHO’s wrong information on Taiwan,” TECO said.

The Philippines has so far not restricted travel to countries such as Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and Japan even though they have more confirmed infections than Taiwan, which currently has 18 confirmed cases of the new virus.

‘Chinese factor’

Joanne Ou, Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokesperson, described Tuesday Manila’s decision as “wrong and unilateral.”

“To confuse Taiwan with China has caused troubles for our side and in the international community,” Ou said.

When asked if Taipei suspected Beijing was pressuring Manila to expand the travel ban, Ou replied: “China’s shadow is lurking… I think the Chinese factor is obvious.”

President Rodrigo Duterte has worked in recent years to improve ties with China in search of investment and trade. — with a report from Agence France-Presse

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