Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Page 3 News List

Virus Outbreak: Hundreds of tourists hit by Manila’s ban

FLIGHT CANCELATIONS:Malaysia-based AirAsia and three Taiwanese airlines announced changes to their Taiwan-Philippine schedules for the next few weeks

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Philippine government’s announcement late on Monday night banning its nationals from visiting Taiwan and barring Taiwanese tourists from entering that nation have disrupted the travel plans of more than 1,600 people, the Tourism Bureau said yesterday.

The Philippine Civil Aviation Board said that the Feb. 2 presidential directive banning the entry of foreign nationals coming directly from China, Hong Kong, and Macau or those with travel history to those areas in the 14 days preceding their arrival in the Philippines and Philippine nationals from traveling to those areas would now include Taiwan, as Manila has a “one China” policy.

However, the entry ban does not apply to Philippine citizens or holders of permanent resident visas, the board said.

Tourism Bureau statistics showed that, as of 11am yesterday, 542 Taiwanese on group tours were in the Philippines, but the travel ban would affect about 1,680 people booked on group tours between yesterday and Feb. 25.

“Travel agencies said they are in close contact with the airlines to inquire about the changes and cancelation of flights. We have asked them to help tourists change their tickets and ensure they can return home,” the bureau said.

The travel ban meant that 150 Taiwanese headed to Cebu, Boracay, Manila and Puerto Princessa on flights that departed on Monday before the clarification was announced were denied entry to the Philippines and forced to stay overnight at airports before returning to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday.

Many of them complained that the Philippine government should have announced the ban sooner, which would have allowed them time to cancel their trips.

Nearly 400 transit passengers arriving at the Taoyuan airport from Canada and the US and bound for Manila were affected as well.

Only 146 passengers holding Philippine passports or permanent resident visas were allowed to board connecting flights to Manila, airlines said.

Kuala Lumpur-based budget airline AirAsia yesterday said it would cancel all flights between the Philippines and Taiwan for now.

It apologized for the inconvenience and said the details about refunds would be made public as soon as possible.

Taipei-based budget carrier Tigerair Taiwan said that it would continue to operate return flights to Taoyuan from the airports in Boracay, Puerto Prince and Cebu City until Friday to bring back stranded Taiwanese travelers.

However, it canceled its flights to the Philippines from Taiwan from Saturday to March 31, it said.

Tigerair Taiwan said it was also canceling its flights to Macau from today to Feb. 26.

China Airlines said that its flights departing from Taoyuan or Kaohsiung to the Philippines would only accept Philippine citizens and permanent residents, but how those flights would be arranged depended on changes to flight status.

EVA Airways last night said that it would cancel flights BR277 and BR278 between Taipei and Manila from today through Tuesday next week.

Flights between Taipei and Cebu City or Manila would operate as scheduled, it said.

Further announcements would be posted on its Web site in the coronavirus outbreak section, it said.

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