Update: Philippines to make final call on Taiwan travel ban by Friday

Philippines to announce final word on Taiwan travel ban by Feb. 14

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Philippines representative in Taiwan, Angelito Tan Banayo. 

Philippines representative in Taiwan, Angelito Tan Banayo.  (CNA photo)

Update: 02/13 2:27 p.m.

Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Angelito Banayo told Taiwan News that the inter-agency task force includes the Philippines' Bureau of Immigration, Department of Health, and Department of Foreign Affairs, among other agencies. Banayo said that the task force will discuss the ban imposed on Taiwan and announce an official decision on Friday.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Philippines could make its final decision on whether to maintain a ban on travelers from Taiwan by Friday (Feb. 14) at the latest.

On Feb. 2, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that a travel ban would be imposed on all foreigners who had visited China and its special administrative regions over the past 14 days. However, on Monday (Feb. 10), Domingo abruptly announced that all visitors arriving from Taiwan would also be subject to the ban based on the Philippines' "one China" policy.

This sudden announcement led to complete chaos with many flights from Taiwan to the Philippines suddenly canceled and hundreds of Taiwanese passengers finding themselves trapped at customs in Philippine airports. Three major travel agencies stated that nearly 500 Taiwanese tourists have been left stranded at customs in Cebu, Kalibo, and Manila International Airports. Immigration, health, ministry of foreign affairs

At a press conference, Philippine Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo clarified that Taiwan is also included in the ban, based on the WHO map. “As far as the health community is concerned and the WHO is concerned, Taiwan is part of China,” ABC-CBN News quoted him as saying.

On Feb. 11, Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the travel ban on Taiwan would be in place until WHO lifts its travel ban on China, reported CNA. However, Domingo contradicted this statement by pointing out that WHO does not make recommendations on travel bans. In fact, WHO has actually has been advocating against China trade and travel bans.

When a reporter asked Domingo whether the Philippines would impose similar travel bans on Singapore and Thailand given that they have many more confirmed cases of Wuhan virus compared to Taiwan, he said an inter-agency task force is holding regular meetings to discuss measures to combat the epidemic, but he is not aware of its decision on other countries. Domingo was cited by CNA as saying the task force members would make a final announcement on the ban Thursday (Feb. 13) or Friday.

Panelo on Wednesday (Feb. 12) was cited by the Philippine News Agency as saying that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will consider lifting the travel ban on Taiwan. "We will relay to the President the request of certain quarters to reconsider the travel ban to Taiwan," said Panelo.

There are indications the abrupt decision was made by an individual on political grounds, rather than based on the actual Wuhan virus situation in Taiwan. If the ban stays in place, Taiwan's government is considering retaliating with seven or eight countermeasures, such as ending the visa-waiver program for Filipino tourists or cutting down on the number of Philippine migrant workers allowed into the country, reported CNA.