A PHILIPPINE travel ban on Taiwan was prompted by a health issue and had nothing to do with geopolitics, the presidential palace said on Thursday, after Taipei threatened to retaliate.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the inclusion of Taiwan in the travel ban on foreigners from China and its administrative regions because of a novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people there and sickened tens of thousands more, his spokesman said.
The ban on Taiwan was not issued because of the Philippines’ so-called One-China policy, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said.
“My primary concern is the health and safety of our countrymen,“ he quoted Mr. Duterte as saying. “Until the danger persists, then we have to do what is necessary to secure their safety.”
Taiwan is an independently governed territory but the Philippines considers it part of China under the One-China policy.
Mr. Panelo earlier this week said Taiwan was included in the travel ban because it is “part of China.”
“Since there is a ban on China, necessarily, Taiwan, being part of China, is included. And we always follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Taipei has urged Manila to lift the travel ban after its citizens were stranded at airports in the Philippines.
Mr. Panelo said Taiwan should recognize Mr. Duterte’s concern for the health and safety of Filipinos.
“We also have our own interest to protect — the health and safety of our countrymen,” he said in Filipino.
The Philippines has confirmed three novel coronavirus cases, including one death, all involving Chinese nationals.
Health authorities were checking more than 400 people for infection, more than half of whom had been confined in hospitals.
More than 115,000 Filipinos live and work in Taiwan, mainly in factories and as housemaids.
Also yesterday, House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano urged the tourism industry to work with the government in easing job losses from the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
“We urge tourism stakeholders from the private sector to continue working with us so as to prevent the displacement of workers affected and the disruption of growth in the tourism industry,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
Mr. Cayetano earlier cited the need for a contingency plan to ensure the virus outbreak won’t derail growth.
He vowed to support efforts to revitalize the tourism industry by promoting local travel.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima T. Romulo-Puyat has said the industry could lose P42.9 billion from February to April — P16.8 billion this month, P14.11 billion in March and P11.98 billion in April.
Roberto Lim, executive director and vice-chairman of the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (ACAP) said they expect to lose about P3 billion from ticket refunds in the next two months after the Philippine travel ban on China and its administrative regions. — G.L. Espedido and G.M. Cortez