Virus Outbreak: Manila to finalize decision on ban

NO CHOICE::The Manila Economic and Cultural Office warned Philippine travelers that they could not extend their visa-free stays and should leave as soon as possible

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Feb 14, 2020 - Page 1

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that it would continue communicating with Manila before the Philippines today finalizes a decision on whether to lift a travel ban that includes Taiwan, after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte refused to cancel the policy.

“My primary concern is the health and safety of our countrymen,” Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo quoted Duterte as saying.

However, GMA News and Public Affairs reported that Duterte is seeking more time before he makes a decision on whether to lift the ban.

Manila on Monday included Taiwan in the temporary travel ban — which initially only targeted visitors from China, Hong Kong and Macau when it was announced last week — wreaking havoc on airlines and travel agencies.

The ministry on Tuesday said that including Taiwan was a decision unilaterally made by the Philippine Department of Health, as the presidency and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs appeared ignorant of the decision in earlier communications.

Taiwan has seven to eight countermeasures ready if the ban is not lifted, a source familiar with the matter said in Taipei on Wednesday on condition of anonymity, adding that countermeasures are pertinent to bilateral exchanges in finance, agriculture, health and immigration.

Inconsistencies among different government agencies are not uncommon in Manila, the source added.

The Philippine government could finalize the decision today after a Cabinet meeting, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said when asked for comment on Duterte’s remarks.

After Manila makes a decision, Taiwan would consider the overall situation and decide on its response, she said.

Taiwan continues communicating with relevant agencies of the Philippine government and hopes that Manila will make the right decision, Ou said.

Separately, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office yesterday afternoon issued an advisory saying that it has started processing refunds of fees for unused visas issued from Nov. 10 last year to Monday.

In another advisory later in the day, the office said that “Filipino travelers stranded in Taiwan are not allowed to extend their 14-day visa-free stay in Taiwan. In this regard, they should be advised to get the earliest flight back to the Philippines.”