Hundreds of Filipino travelers to Taiwan were stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International after major airlines started cancelling flights to and from Taipei in compliance with the Philippine government’s order expanding the travel ban.
READ: Virus deaths top 900; WHO sees ‘tip of the iceberg’
A number of passengers from the United States who made a stopover in Taiwan were also barred from entering the country and were told by the Bureau of Immigration agents to go back to the airport where they came from.
“We are constrained to cancel all our flights between Manila and Taipei effective immediately, until further notice. These cancelled flights are PR-890/891 Manila-Taipei-Manila and PR-894/895 Manila-Taipei-Manila,” said Philippine Airlines spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said.
PAL advises passengers with flights to and from Taiwan from Feb. 11 onwards to await the lifting of the ban.
Cebu Pacific Air also canceled flights to and from Taipei due to the travel ban.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the expansion of the travel ban includes tourists from Taiwan.
“We have confirmed with the Department of Justice, which is our mother department, that Taiwan is indeed included in the expanded travel ban,” said Morente.
On Feb. 2, the Immigration bureau implemented an order from President Rodrigo Duterte banning all foreign nationals coming from China, as well as its special administrative regions.
The order stated that any passenger of any nationality who has been to China, Hong Kong, and Macau within 14 days before coming to the Philippines will automatically be denied entry.
Only Filipino citizens and aliens with permanent resident visas from said countries may be allowed entry.
“While not explicitly stated, we have confirmed with the Secretary of Justice that Taiwan is indeed part of the ban, and this expansion shall be implemented immediately,” said Morente.
The same was earlier announced by the Department of Health.
Morente announced that the travel ban will be implemented immediately, and will follow the same procedure.
Under the guidelines, if a foreign passenger not exempted from the ban is encountered at the ports, he or she shall automatically be denied entry and returned to his port of origin.
Filipinos and aliens who are exempted from the ban will be turned over to the Bureau of Quarantine for their assessment, together with a copy of their arrival cards.
Filipinos are temporarily not allowed to leave for China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan unless they are part of a government delegation conducting official duties, a member of the World Health Organization, and other agencies involved in fighting or containing the novel coronavirus.
Taiwan on Tuesday hit out at countries that “confuse” it with China after the Philippines became the latest to impose a travel ban on the island over the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Despite its cultural links and close proximity to China, Taiwan moved swiftly against the outbreak and currently has just 18 confirmed cases of the new virus.
But the self-ruled democracy has found itself increasingly caught up in travel restrictions aimed at China, where the outbreak has killed more than 1,000 people and infected over 42,000.
On Monday the Philippines confirmed its current travel ban for China was being expanded to Taiwan under the so-called “one China” policy.
Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory―part of a “one China”―and has vowed to eventually take the island, by force if necessary.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Tuesday described that decision as “wrong and unilateral.”
“To confuse Taiwan with China has caused troubles for our side and in the international community,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters.
As the virus has spread, some countries have included Taiwan in their own China travel bans.
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.
Taiwanese officials abroad have been communicating with various governments to clarify that Taiwan “is not part of the People’s Republic of China”, Ou said.
Taiwan has also contained the outbreak and has reported no community infection cases, she added.
When asked if Taipei suspected Beijing was pressuring Manila to expand the travel ban, Ou said: “China’s shadow is lurking... I think the Chinese factor is obvious.”
Taiwan said it would continue to communicate with Manila and said it had persuaded some countries including South Korean, Vietnam and Jordan to lift travel restrictions.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines expressed its grave concern about the travel ban,in which Taiwan was wrongly included,issued by the Civil Aeronautics Board and the Bureau of Immigration on Feb. 10, 2020.
In a statement, it said:
“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 isn ot, nor has it ever been, part of the PRC. Taiwan has taken all measures needed to contain the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
“It is a factual error for the World Health Organization to regard Taiwan as a part of PRC. The Philippines should not be misled by WHO’s wrong information on Taiwan.
“No other countries in Asia, except the Philippines, have issued travel ban on Taiwan. We urge the Philippine government to immediately correct its decision on Taiwan and remove Taiwan from the travel ban.”
Also on Tuesday, a group of licensed recruitment agencies deploying Filipino workers to Taiwan, Pilipino Manpower-Agencies Accredited toTaiwan, also opposed the travel ban, saying it would hurt diplomatic and trade relations.
The travel ban will have an effect on the 180,000 Filipinos working the numerous factories and electronic assembly plants in many parts of Taiwan, the group said.
This includes about 30,000 caregivers who are taking care of the elderly there. With AFPREAD: 4 more Pinoys aboard cruise ship test positiveREAD: Nations take drastic steps to rim spreadREAD: Public warned: No cure for n-CoV; only hygiene
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