Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Page 1 News List

Virus Outbreak: MOFA working to fix Philippine ban

TRAVEL SNARL:The Philippine undersecretary for health said he included Taiwan in the ban because Taiwan is considered a part of China by the WHO

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Taiwanese sleep overnight at an airport in the Philippines on Monday after the Philippine government imposed a travel ban on Taiwanese visitors to the country due to the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

Photo courtesy of a Taiwanese passenger via CNA

The Philippines’ decision to include Taiwan in its travel ban on Chinese visitors due to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was made unilaterally by the Philippine Department of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday, adding that Taipei is communicating with Manila to correct the mistake.

Philippine Undersecretary of Health Eric Domingo on Monday said that Taiwan is included in its temporary travel ban on visitors from China, Hong Kong and Macau, given that Taiwan is considered part of China by the WHO.

When the ban was first announced last week, it did not mention Taiwan.

Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman and Resident Representative Angelito Banayo said in a message sent to MOFA later on Monday that “the statement made by Health Undersecretary Dr Eric Domingo is not an official position.”

A meeting on 2019-nCoV with the Bureau of Immigration, the Department of Foreign Affairs and other agencies was scheduled for this morning so that a decision could be made, Banayo said.

“Meantime, immigration on the ground is not banning Taiwanese entry. My apologies for the confusing statements,” he said.

Nonetheless, nearly 150 Taiwanese tourists were denied entry into the Philippines after they arrived at airports in Cebu, Kalibo and Manila, local media reported yesterday.

The decision to bar Taiwanese was unilaterally made by the Philippine Department of Health, which on Monday night told the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to deny Taiwanese entry, effective immediately, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a news briefing in Taipei yesterday.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines and MECO are clarifying the matter with the Philippine Presidential Office and Department of Foreign Affairs, she said.

The confusion results from inconsistencies among the Philippines’ different government agencies, she added.

“The pressure from China always exists,” Ou said, when asked if Beijing pressured the Southeast Asian country to add Taiwan to its travel ban.

Since the disease started spreading, the ministry has instructed its overseas offices to communicate with local governments based on three principles: Taiwan is not part of China; Taiwan is not part of China’s 2019-nCoV infection area; and unlike China, Taiwan is keeping infection well under control with no community outbreaks reported, Ou said.

Despite initial misunderstandings caused by Beijing’s “one China” principle, many countries have excluded Taiwan from their travel bans on Chinese, including South Korea, Vietnam, Jordan and Mauritius, she said.

The ministry is still negotiating with Italy about removing Taiwan from its ban on flights from China, but Taiwan-Italy cargo flights and Taiwanese passport holders on other flights to Italy are not affected, she said.

It has also asked Mongolia and Bangladesh to exclude Taiwan from their bans on Chinese tourists, she said.

Responding to queries on Manila’s ban on travelers from Taiwan on the basis of Beijing’s “one China” principle, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday said that many countries do not understand the “one China” principle and have misrepresented and victimized Taiwanese in their efforts to combat the outbreak.

In the absence of official diplomatic ties, Taiwan and the Philippines have had frequent exchanges, and the government would continue to communicate with Manila in the hopes that the two sides would maintain their usual exchanges, he said, adding that the government would provide assistance to Taiwanese stranded in Philippine airports to help them return home.

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