The Philippines has lifted the ban on Taiwanese nationals who wish to visit the Philippines, Malacañang announced on Valentine’s Day.
This developed following the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) held Friday afternoon, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press statement.
The lifting of the travel ban takes effect “immediately,” Panelo said.
“The Palace confirms that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease has resolved to lift the travel restrictions imposed upon Taiwan, effective immediately. Accordingly, travel may now be made by any national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa,” he said.
The Department of Health (DOH) first announced on Monday that travel ban for foreign tourists from mainland China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macao, also applies to Taiwan.
Philippine officials, however, emphasized that Taiwan is included not because of the “One-China” policy but due to health considerations to prevent the spread of the disease.
Several countries and international organizations consider Taiwan as part of China under Beijing’s “One-China” policy.
Taiwan has nearly 20 confirmed cases of Covid-19, which originates in Wuhan, China and has spread to more than 20 countries, including the Philippines.
“The lifting of travel restrictions for Taiwan has been agreed by the members of the IATF by reason of the strict measures they are undertaking, as well as the protocols they are implementing to address the Covid-19,” he said.
Taiwan has cautioned that it might take countermeasures, in case the Philippines fails to lift the ban it imposed on its citizens.
Still ‘safe’ in Taiwan
In a media interview, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said the lifting of the ban has nothing to do with Taiwan’s threat.
Duque said the government would no longer bar Taiwanese nationals from visiting the Philippines since there was no local transmission in Taiwan.
He added that the low tourist arrivals in Taiwan, as of February 2019, prompted the government to overturn its decision to prevent the entry of travelers from Taipei.
“Two things come to forward: Number one, the absence of local transmission in Taiwan, and number two, the relatively low volume of travelers from Taiwan to Manila, which is for February of this year just reached 45,000. So kakaunti (It’s low),” Duque said.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said there was no need to worry since it remains “safe” in Taiwan.
“Stricter protocols were imposed by Taiwan so it is safe,” she said.
Technical working group formed
The government also formed a technical working group that will study and formulate recommendations relative to the application of prevailing travel restrictions to specific classes of travelers, based on the Feb. 14 resolution approved by the IATF and read by Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar.
This was part of the government’s efforts to prevent the possible spread of Covid-19 in the Philippines.
“The recommendations of the TWG shall be immediately submitted to the member-agencies of the IATF for approval,” Andanar said.
Andanar, citing the resolution, said the travel restriction in China, Hong Kong, and Macao is “still in effect”.
The travel ban is not applicable to Filipino citizens, holders of permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps, regardless of nationality, he added.
Andanar said the government will ask the Chinese government to inform the Philippines of protocols being followed by Macao, if any, that prevent potential carriers of Covid-19 from entering or departing such special administrative region.
Panelo bared that the inter-agency task force will also look into the possibility of lifting the travel ban in other areas like Macao.
He said any resolution relative to travel restrictions in connection with the Covid-19 will be subject to “regular review” by the IATF.
“The IATF will likewise evaluate other jurisdictions, including Macau, for the possible lifting of the imposed travel ban after their submission of the protocols being observed by their government which prevent potential carriers of the said virus from entering and deporting their territory and enable others to determine the recent travel history of any traveler exiting their borders,” he said.