MANILA - Health Sec. Francisco Duque III on Thursday said the Philippine government's decision to include Taiwan in the travel ban is due to public health and safety concerns over the COVID-19 disease.
Speaking to DZMM, Duque said Philippines' travel ban on Taiwan is not political.
"It's public health. Ang iinvoke ko diyan lagi, the Inter-Agency Task Force invokes public health and safety. No political considerations, whatsoever," he said.
Duque also said members of the Inter-Agency Task Force will be meeting Friday to reconsider the travel ban.
"Inaantay natin. Hopefully, tomorrow wala pa rin silang local transmission, kasi 'yung local transmission, mabilis din eh," Duque said.
(We are waiting. Hopefully, they wouldn't have any cases of local transmission, because local transmission is fast.)
"We are observing some geometric or exponential rise in number of cases and deaths. So medyo, talagang, we cannot let our guard down here, and so we have to, if there is any error on our part, I can assure you, it will be on the side of caution," Duque added.
Since the situation is fluid, Duque said the subject of the travel ban on Taiwan is "is subject to periodic reassessment."
Duque's statement echoes that of Malacañang, which said the travel ban is purely a "health" issue.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the inclusion of Taiwan in the travel ban due to confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease there, his spokesman Salvador Panelo said as he denied that the decision was because of the Philippines’ “One-China Policy.”
Philippine officials made the clarification following reports of proposals for Taipei to retaliate against the prohibition.
Taiwan is an independently governed territory but the Philippines considers it part of China under the one-China policy.
Taipei has urged Manila to lift the travel ban as it noted that some of its people were stranded at airports in the Philippines after the prohibition was announced earlier this week.
So far, the Philippines had 3 confirmed cases, including 1 death, of the new coronavirus strain from China. All cases involved Chinese nationals from Wuhan, where the pathogen was discovered. So far, 408 people have been checked for infection, of which, 238 were confined.
More than 115,000 Filipinos live and work in Taiwan, mainly in factories and as household helpers.