Taiwan urges Philippines to lift travel ban
The Department of Health said last Monday that Taiwan is included in the travel ban because the World Health Organization considers Taiwan a province of China.
AFP/Leo Ramirez

Taiwan urges Philippines to lift travel ban

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECO) insisted yesterday that Taiwan was wrongfully included in the expanded travel ban enforced by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for risk of spreading the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Department of Health (DOH) said last Monday that Taiwan is included in the travel ban because the World Health Organization (WHO) considers Taiwan a province of China.

“The Republic of China (Taiwan) 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 PRC. Taiwan has taken all measures needed to contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus,” TECO said in a statement.

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

“No other countries in Asia, except the Philippines, has issued travel ban on Taiwan. We urge the Philippine government to immediately correct its decision on Taiwan and remove Taiwan from the travel ban,” TECO said.

Decision justified

But Malacañang justified its decision to include Taiwan in the travel ban, saying it was intended to protect Filipinos from the novel coronavirus. “They (Taiwan) are saying that they are not affected by the virus,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. “We are trying to protect our countrymen from the infected.”

Panelo said the country’s one-China policy could also be the reason why the ban was extended to Taiwan. 

“We will relay to the President the request of certain quarters to reconsider the travel ban to Taiwan,” he added.

Airlines halt trips

Meanwhile, two leading foreign carriers have reduced flights between Manila and Taiwan as the Philippines imposed travel restrictions to arrest the spread of the virus.

China Airlines (CI) cancelled its flights CI701 and CI702 between Taipei and Manila and CI711 and CI712 between Kaoshiung and Manila, following the travel ban issued last Monday.

The Philippines’ Civil Aeronautics Board made it clear that the travel ban originally issued on Feb. 2 between the Philippines and China, Hong Kong and Macau, also included Taiwan.

CI used to operate three flights in and three flights out of Manila to and from Taiwan daily.

Eva Airways (BR) also canceled flights BR277 and BR278 between Taipei and Manila beginning yesterday (Feb. 12), while all its other flights will operate as usual.

Earlier, three Philippine carriers operating the Manila-Taiwan-Manila route – Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Philippine Air-Asia – decided to cancel all their flights to abide with the government order.

Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau said about 540 Taiwanese travelers in 21 tour groups are currently in the Philippines.?The bookings of some 1,680 Taiwanese tourists in 83 groups have been affected by the travel ban, the bureau said, citing numbers valid up to Feb. 25.

As of Feb. 11, 18 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Taiwan, while three cases and one death from the virus had been recorded in the Philippines since the outbreak began in Wuhan City, China last December. – With Rudy Santos, Alexis Romero

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