The government hopes to maintain Taipei-Manila rapport, but has listed seven to eight countermeasures if the Philippines persists in its travel ban on Taiwanese visitors, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday.
On Monday, the Philippines — one of the countries covered by the government’s New Southbound Policy — added Taiwan to its temporary travel ban.
The ban initially targeted only people from China, Hong Kong and Macau and was instituted last week.
Taiwan was included, as it is considered part of China by the WHO, Philippine Undersecretary of Health Eric Domingo said on Monday.
While Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chairman and Resident Representative Angelito Banayo later that day said that “the statement made by Health Undersecretary Dr Eric Domingo is not an official position” and apologized for the confusion, Taiwanese have remained barred from entering the Philippines.
The reversal wreaked havoc on domestic airlines and travel agencies, with some lawmakers urging the government to cancel its visa-waiver program or restricting the number of Philippine migrant workers.
Adding Taiwan to the ban was a wrong decision made by a single official, as the Philippine presidency, national security and foreign affairs agencies appeared to be ignorant of the decision, a source familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
While the government is working to ask Manila to correct the ban by removing Taiwan, it has also come up with certain countermeasures if the ban persists, they said.
The countermeasures touch on various government agencies, including economy, health, agriculture and immigration, the source said, without divulging specifics.
Two conflicting forces, either leaning toward Taiwan or China, have existed inside the Philippine government, the source added.
When bilateral relations reached their worst in years in 2013, when Taiwanese fisher Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) on board the vessel Kuang Ta Hsing No. 2 was shot dead by the Philippine Coast Guard, Taiwan imposed a series of sanctions on the Philippines.
The sanctions included freezing the applications of Philippine workers and suspending bilateral exchanges in trade, fisheries and aviation.
In a news briefing in Manila yesterday, Domingo adopted a more reserved stance when asked about the issue, saying only that the decision might be finalized today or tomorrow.
Additional reporting by CNA
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