Manila keeps travel history as visa requirement for Taiwanese

A woman and a child wear protective masks at the departure area of Manila's international airport, Philippines on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. A temporary ban on all travellers, except Filipinos, from China and its autonomous regions has been recently approved by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippines has reported one death from the new virus and precautionary measures remain tight. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Despite the recent lifting of a travel ban imposed by Manila on Taiwan, Taiwanese visiting the Philippines are still required to present a travel history when applying for a Philippine visa, the Taipei-based Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) clarified Sunday.

As part of efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Philippine government on Feb. 10 announced the inclusion of Taiwan in an earlier travel ban that restricted the entry of foreign travelers from China and its special administrative regions.

The extension of the temporary travel ban to Taiwan was lifted Friday by the Philippines’ Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases after it was determined during a 90-minute meeting in Manila that Taiwan has implemented strict protocols to handle travelers.

In view of this, MECO said its public advisory issued on Feb. 4, before Taiwan was included in the Philippine travel ban, is again in effect for Philippine visa applications.

“Taiwanese travelers still have to submit an Entry and Exit Record issued by Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency when applying for a visa to enter the Philippines,” Gerry de Belen, director of the Administrative Services at MECO, told CNA during a phone interview Sunday.

This is part of MECO’s protocol to safeguard the Philippines from the coronavirus and one of the major factors considered by the inter-agency taskforce before it lifted the travel ban on Taiwan, he said.

According to the advisory, the Entry and Exit Record should contain a list of countries the applicant visited in the last 21 days preceding their visit to the Philippines, as the foreign nationals who have traveled to China, Hong Kong and Macau within that period are still barred from entering the country.

Failure to submit the Entry and Exit Record may result in the denial of a visa application without a refund of the processing fee, according to the advisory.

The Entry and Exit Record is necessary as Philippine immigration officials are unable to determine whether a Taiwan national has been to China, Hong Kong or Macau because Taiwanese use a special document known as the “Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan residents” to enter those areas, rather than their passports.

For other foreign applicants for Philippine visas, MECO staff will check the entry and exit stamps in their passports to ensure compliance with the Philippines’ travel ban on China, Hong Kong and Macau, MECO said.

Meanwhile, Filipino citizens are now allowed to visit Taiwan, de Belen said, adding that in general, they will not be required to undergo 14-day quarantine or isolation upon return to the Philippines unless symptoms of COVID-19 infection are exhibited.

However, some local governments in the Philippines may have their own quarantine protocols, de Belen said, with some media reporting that 78 Filipinos arriving from Taiwan on Feb. 13 were placed under 14-day isolation at an undisclosed government facility in Cebu City.