Ban ‘unilaterally ordered’ by Philippine health agency: Taiwan

MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (CNA file photo)
MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (CNA file photo)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — There is “internal inconsistency” within Philippine government agencies on whether a travel ban that was imposed on China includes Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, 外交部) on Tuesday.

MOFA spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said at a press briefing that the Philippine Health department had “unilaterally ordered” its Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to refrain Taiwanese residents from entering the country based on a travel ban on China, while the southeast country’s representative in Taiwan took an opposite position.

Ou called the health department’s move a “political” one while iterating that Taiwan is not part of China and has the novel coronavirus outbreak well under control.

Taiwan calls on the Philippine government to “correct this mistake as soon as possible,” Ou said.

According to the Bureau of Tourism, as of this morning (Feb. 11), currently there are 22 Taiwanese tour groups, comprising of 542 people in the Philippines.

Ou said that relevant agencies are working on bringing them back.

The southeast Asian country government agencies, including its foreign ministry, health department and presidential office will convene to discuss on the topic shortly, Ou added.

The China Post has reached out to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan (MECO) for comment.

This image shows the order signed by Executive Director of the Philippines' Civil Aeronautics Board on banning Taiwanese entry on Feb. 10, 2020. (Courtesy of Mimi Hsin Hsuan Sun.)
This image shows the order signed by Executive Director of the Philippines’ Civil Aeronautics Board on banning Taiwanese entry on Feb. 10, 2020. (Courtesy of Mimi Hsin Hsuan Sun.)

Prior to the order late last night, MOFA had already debunked foreign reports that quoted the Philippine Department of Health spokesperson Eric Domingo as saying that Taiwan is included in a temporary travel restriction and ban on China because it is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO, 世界衛生組織) as part of the East Asian giant.

Chairman and Resident Representative of the MECO Angelito Banayo had then reassured its Taiwanese counterpart that “immigration on the ground is not banning Taiwanese entry,” in a message to Baushuan Ger (葛葆萱), director-general of MOFA’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, provided by Ou.

However, an order signed by the Philippine CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla was released overnight, in which Arcilla asked airlines to “fully implement the temporary travel ban restricting the entry into the Philippines of the following persons coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.”

The travel ban announced on Feb. 2 “includes Taiwan under the One China Policy,” the order reads.

This is not the first time Taiwan is included in travel restrictions due to WHO’s failure to recognize it as separate from China.

Earlier this month, Italy and Vietnam suspended all flights to and from China, including Hong Kong and Macau as well as Taiwan. Vietnam has since reversed that decision.