Taiwan urges Philippines to lift travel ban on Taiwanese amid coronavirus fears

Reuters

Posted at Feb 11 2020 11:59 AM | Updated as of Feb 11 2020 09:54 PM

Travelers wear face masks as a precaution against the 2019-nCoV at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 arrival area, Feb. 04, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

TAIPEI (3rd UPDATE) - Taiwan urged the Philippines on Tuesday to lift a travel ban on its citizens after Philippine airlines canceled flights to Taiwan due to a government ban on all foreigners traveling from the island to help contain the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou made the comments at a regular news briefing in Taipei, adding that some Taiwanese were stranded at airports in the Philippines after the ban was announced earlier this week.

The Philippines' 2 largest airlines -- Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific -- canceled flights to Taiwan after the government expanded its travel ban to include all foreigners coming from the island to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Philippines' Bureau of Immigration said Monday the travel ban would take effect immediately and would follow the same procedures as in the previously announced restriction that covered China and its Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong and Macau.

Filipinos and foreigners with permanent resident visas may be allowed entry but will be turned over to the Bureau of Quarantine for assessment, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.

More than 115,000 Filipinos live and work in Taiwan, mainly in factories and as household helpers.

PASSENGERS STRANDED

Some 50 passengers were stuck at the capital's airport after the Philippine government imposed a travel restriction for Taiwan.

The passengers told ABS-CBN News they came from the US and transited through Taiwan. They only learned about the travel ban after arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1.

Most of them were natural-born Filipinos but are US passport holders.

They were not sent for quarantine inspection but were told to fly back to Taiwan.

PALACE: UP TO HEALTH ADVISORIES

Malacañang said lifting the travel ban on Taiwan would depend on the recommendation of the World Health Organization and its national health department.

Taiwan was included in the ban because it is a “part of China,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said Tuesday.

“Since there is a ban on China, necessarily, Taiwan, being part of China, is included. And we always follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization,” Panelo told reporters.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines meanwhile lamented the "wrong" inclusion of Taiwan in the travel ban.

"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," the office said in a statement.

Taiwan is an independently governed territory but the Philippines considers it part of China under the one-China policy.

TECO added that Manila should not be "misled by WHO’s wrong information on Taiwan" as part of mainland China.

"It is a factual error for the World Health Organization (WHO) to regard Taiwan as a part of PRC."

For now, Panelo said the travel ban on Taiwan stays “until the WHO makes any announcement and until the DOH (Department of Health) recommends to the President [its lifting].”

Cases of the virus have been confirmed there.

“If the WHO says there is a need for the lifting of the ban in any part of those already announced with a travel ban then we will, I suppose, do so,” he said.

- With reports from Jacque Manabat and Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News; Reuters