TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has asked the Philippine government to “correct” its travel ban introduced Monday that includes Taiwan along with China, Hong Kong and Macau, citing the “One China Policy” as its basis.
The Philippines’ travel ban announced that day has resulted in confusion. Passengers of flights from Taiwan, which took off before the ban was introduced, were denied entry and stranded in several airports in the Philippines.
In addition, several airlines, such as Air Asia and Cebu Pacific, have announced the cancellation of flights between Taiwan and the Philippines.
The Taiwan government is currently engaging in talks with the Philippine side, including its Office of the President, Department of Foreign Affairs and other relevant offices, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said Tuesday at a press conference.
“We are urging the Philippine government to correct this unilateral decision,”she said, identifying the Philippines’Department of Health (DOH) as the source of the controversy.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte issued an order on Feb. 2 banning all foreign nationals coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau. The order did not mention Taiwan at that time.
However, on Monday afternoon, the DOH announced that travelers from Taiwan are included in the Philippine travel ban amid the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
“As far as the health community is concerned and the World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned, Taiwan is part of China,” said Eric Domingo, Philippines’ health undersecretary, according to a news report from the ABC-CBN network.
In a letter sent to MOFA on Monday, a copy of which was obtained by CNA, Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Angelito Banayo said Domingo’s statement “was not an official position,” adding that his government will come up with a decision on the ban on Wednesday at an inter-agency meeting.
Hours later, a press release from the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Manila’s travel ban on China was extended to tourists from Taiwan, effective immediately.
Later that night, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) of the Philippines issued a clarification that the travel ban “as contained in the Presidential directive of Feb. 2, includes Taiwan under the One China Policy.”
Asked if Beijing could be behind the sudden change in Manila’s travel policy, Ou said “the shadow of China is always there.”
She added that Taiwan’s representative office in Manila will continue to relay Taiwan’s position on the ban: Taiwan is not part of China, healthcare in Taiwan and China are administered by separate and independent authorities, and Taiwan’s situation on the epidemic is far better than that of China.
With regards to the demands made by some legislators in Taiwan that retaliative measures be taken against the Philippines, such as the cancellation of visa-free treatment for Filipinos, Ou said she would not comment on personal statements.
Several countries, including South Korea, Vietnam, Mauritius, Jordan and Italy have announced similar travel bans on Taiwan. However, such measures were later reversed by all except Italy, after Taiwan’s government provided clarifications.