Immigration bureau opens PH doors to travelers from Taiwan after ban lifting

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2020 12:51 PM

Travelers wear face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1, Feb. 4, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Saturday it had implemented the lifting of travel restriction the Philippines imposed on Taiwan due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said he had instructed all immigration personnel to allow foreigners and Filipinos to travel to and from the self-governing territory.

"We have received an order from the Office of the President yesterday [Friday] afternoon lifting the travel restrictions," Morente said.

"This follows the resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Disease (IATF), which we are bound to implement immediately. Hence, travel may now be made by any foreign national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa," he added.

Also allowed to enter the Philippines are members of the diplomatic corps traveling from Taiwan, regardless of nationality.

The decision to lift the ban, announced Friday, came as Taiwan threatened sanctions against the Philippines, including scrapping visa-free privilege for Filipinos.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo had said the task force reached the decision given strict measures and protocol Taiwan had been undertaking against the spread of the virus.

Taiwan said it had only 18 cases of the virus compared to more than 66,000 in China.

Nearly 160,000 Filipinos live and work in Taiwan, mainly in factories and as household helpers.

Philippine immigration authorities currently do not allow foreign travelers from China and and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau to enter Manila.

The COVID-19, which has killed more than 1,500 people and infected more than 66,000 others, originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Only Filipinos and permanent resident visa holders are allowed to enter the Philippines. Filipinos are also temporarily barred from traveling to China.

The task force, Morente said, is ready to enforce the possible lifting of the travel ban in other territories. This as Palace officials said Friday the ban would undergo periodic review.

"We are on standby, ready to implement any policy change as deemed appropriate by the IATF," he said.