By Samuel Medenilla and Recto Mercene
THE Philippine government has lifted the travel ban to Taiwan, amid mounting clamor from both Taipei and thousands of Filipino workers stranded by the order, imposed as part of measures to deal with the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The announcement of the lifting was made after an interagency meeting called Friday.
“The Palace confirms that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) 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,” said Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo.
“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,” the Palace statement said.
Meanwhile,it added, “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.
“The Office of the President likewise stresses that any resolution relative to travel restrictions in connection with the COVID-19 shall be subjected to regular review by the IATF.”
The urgent meeting was called in response to appeals from both the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (Teco) and the Philippines’s representative office in Taipei, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco), which cited the huge economic fallout of the ban, both for the economy and the OFWs, mostly skilled labor.
The Philippine government included Taiwan last week in an expanded travel ban that it earlier imposed on China and its Special Administrative Regions (SAR) Macau and Hong Kong. The Department of Health (DOH) said it was heeding advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) which includes Taiwan as part of China—a classification that Taipei objected to.
Over 6,000 Filipino workers have travel documents to return to Taiwan, of whom 3,000 are new hires and the rest, vacationing workers processed by the Philippine Overseas Workers Administration (POEA).
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECO) welcomes the announcement made today by the Philippine Government to remove Taiwan from the travelban, which was implemented on February 10, 2020.
Taiwan has taken all measures needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Taiwan will continue to work closely with the international community, including the Philippines, to fight against the COVID-19 to safeguard thehealth and welfare of humanity.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) attaches great importance to its long-standing relationship with the Republic of the Philippines. We are determined to strengthen our bilateral ties and promote our people-to-people connectivity.
TECO would like to express deep appreciation to all Filipino friends who have voiced their sincere support for removing Taiwan from the temporary travel ban. We especially commend the Manila Economic and Cultural Office for its tireless efforts to help remove Taiwan from the travel ban.