A clearer picture emerged on Saturday of the roles played by the government, and business and labor groups to convince the Philippines to lift its travel ban on Taiwan on Friday.
On Monday last week, travel ties between the two nations were thrown into uncertainty when Manila announced that Taiwan would be included in a Feb. 2 directive banning travel from China and its special administrative regions.
Taipei officials said that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte would respond better if the dispute was handled discreetly, in a nonconfrontational manner, diplomatic sources said, adding that in line with this approach, the nation exerted pressure through unofficial channels, including the large community of Taiwanese businesspeople in the Philippines.
On the Philippine side, Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Angelito Banayo came out against the policy’s political motivation in a column in the Manila Standard on Tuesday.
“Healthcare should be beyond the realm of politics,” Banayo wrote, adding that COVID-19 is “well-controlled and effectively managed” in Taiwan.
This message was reinforced at a Philippine Cabinet meeting on Friday, at which MECO Vice Chairman Gilbert Lauengco reported on the response measures Taipei had implemented, Philippine officials said.
The travel ban also received significant pushback from commercial and labor groups.
Taiwan is the fifth-largest source of tourists for the Philippines and the nation’s inclusion in the travel ban was met with apprehension over lost revenue.
On Thursday, more than 400 Filipino employees of Taiwanese company I-Mei Foods submitted a letter to MECO urging Duterte to reverse the ban, saying that it would harm their livelihood, according to a report by ABS-CBN News in the Philippines.
“We, the workers of I-Mei Food Manufacturing Corp in Taiwan, are calling and asking our government to allow Filipino workers to come to Taiwan again, especially those who have work contracts,” the letter said.
Members of the Filipino community in southern Taiwan issued a video appeal, warning that the ban could result in lost jobs if Taipei allowed foreign workers from elsewhere, the report said.
Manila on Friday announced that it was lifting the travel ban on Taiwan following a risk assessment, a decision based on the “strict measures ... and protocols” Taiwan’s government has implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
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