Taiwan expresses ‘grave concern’ over inclusion in PH travel ban

Sofia Tomacruz
Taiwan expresses ‘grave concern’ over inclusion in PH travel ban
'We urge the Philippine government to immediately correct its decision on Taiwan,' says the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office

MANILA, Philippines – The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECO) denounced the Duterte administration’s move to include Taiwan in travel restrictions imposed over the novel coronavirus.

In a statement on Tuesday night, February 11, TECO said Taiwan was “wrongly included” in the ban against non-Filipino travelers coming from China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

“The Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign and independent state. Taiwan issues its own passport and visas and has exclusive jurisdiction over its people and territory. In fact, Taiwan is not, nor has it ever been, part of the PRC (People’s Republic of China),” TECO said.

Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy, has found itself increasingly caught up in travel restrictions aimed at China, where the outbreak has killed more than 1,100 people and infected over 44,600.

The Philippines on Monday, February 10, announced Taiwan was included in a temporary travel ban imposed on mainland China and its special administrative regions since the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes it as part of China.

The Philippines also observes a one-China policy as stated in the 1975 Joint Communique between the Chinese and Philippine governments, which “respects the position of the Chinese government that there is but one China and that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory.”

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, however, admitted that the inclusion of Taiwan in the expanded ban was not immediately implemented because of “confusion” among involved agencies. Implementation for non-Filipino travelers only began over the weekend.

Taiwan maintains it is a “factual error” for the WHO to regard it as part of China.

“To confuse Taiwan with China has caused troubles for our side and in the international community,” Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said, adding the “Chinese factor is obvious” in Manila’s decision to include Taiwan in travel restrictions.

“The Philippines should not be misled by WHO’s wrong information on Taiwan…. We urge the Philippine government to immediately correct its decision on Taiwan and remove Taiwan from the travel ban,” added TECO.

Taiwan likewise assured the public it has taken “all measures needed” to swiftly contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Aside from the Philippines, Italy has banned flights by Taiwanese carriers, Bangladesh has stopped Taiwanese travelers from entering, while Mongolia initially enacted a ban and then said it would review visa applications on a case-by-case basis.

The WHO earlier declared the outbreak a global emergency, triggering several countries including the Philippines to set travel restrictions largely focused on China. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.