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An illogical move

The government’s sudden decision to include Taiwan in its China travel ban to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus has caused unnecessary disruption for thousands of people, Filipinos and Taiwanese alike.

The decision by the Department of Health to include Taiwan in the travel ban—announced almost as an afterthought—left hundreds of Filipino travelers to Taiwan stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after major airlines began canceling flights to and from Taipei in compliance with the expansion of the travel ban.

Taiwan travel ban

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 Bureau of Immigration agents to go back to the airport from which they came.

Adding to the confusion was an announcement by one Health undersecretary that the travel ban had indeed been expanded to cover not just China, Hong Kong, and Macau but Taiwan as well—even while his colleague at a Palace briefing said nothing had yet been decided. At least one official said Taiwan was included because of the country’s “One China” policy—a political concession to Beijing as Taiwan functions as a sovereign and independent state from the People’s Republic of China, issuing its own passports and visas.

In fact, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office assets that “Taiwan is not, nor has it ever been, part of the PRC.”

TECO, which serves as the de facto Taiwan embassy, notes that it has taken measures as well to contain the spread of nCoV. On Monday, Taiwan temporarily closed its borders to most residents of Hong Kong and Macau. A week earlier, it had temporarily banned the entry of all mainland Chinese citizens, as well as foreign nationals who may have been in China, Hong Kong or Macau in the 14 days leading up to their travel to Taiwan.

For political reasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) lumps Taiwan’s statistics with mainland Chinese cities, even though it operates for all intents and purposes as an independent state.

Even then, the WHO statistics are telling.

The UN agency’s situation report as of Feb. 2 showed Taipei had 10 confirmed cases of nCoV. This compares with 20 for Japan, 19 for Thailand, 18 for Singapore, 15 for South Korea—yet none of these countries with a higher number of confirmed cases are part of our travel ban.

No other countries in Asia, except the Philippines, have issued travel ban on Taiwan.

A group of licensed recruitment agencies deploying Filipino workers to Taiwan, Pilipino Manpower-Agencies Accredited to Taiwan, opposed the travel ban, saying it would hurt diplomatic and trade relations and affect 180,000 Filipinos working the numerous factories and electronic assembly plants in many parts of Taiwan. This includes about 30,000 caregivers who are taking care of the elderly there.

These Filipinos will suffer for no logical medical reason, if the ill-considered Taiwan travel ban stays.

Topics: Editorial , Taiwan , China , travel ban , novel coronavirus , Department of Health
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