(FEBRUARY 14, 2020) – Mounting pressure has apparently forced President Rodrigo Duterte’s office to lift the travel restrictions on Taiwan effective immediately.
The lifting of the ban was announced on Friday after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) met to discuss strict measures and protocols to deal with the rising concern of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
“The Palace confirms that the IATF has resolved to lift the travel restrictions imposed upon Taiwan, effective immediately,” spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“Accordingly, travel may now be made by any national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa.”
The task force will also evaluate other jurisdictions, like Macau, for the possible lifting of the imposed travel ban after submitting its protocols to contain the virus.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the country is mulling on countermeasures against the Philippines should the ban persist, although it was not specific.
Hours before the announcement, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Palace stands by the imposition of the ban, citing it as a measure to protect public health.
“I think it’s a better way for us to manage the situation right now,” Nograles told a news briefing Friday afternoon.
“The results speak for itself, we’ve been able to contain the problem. I think we stand with that decision.”
Senators had questioned the need for a ban on Taiwan, since other countries like Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand have more confirmed cases.
Taiwan as of the moment has 18 confirmed cases, while the rest of the aforementioned countries have at least 28.
Duterte, in early February, ordered a travel ban to and from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau—the most affected areas of the COVID-19—to prevent it from spreading in the Philippines.
This week, the ban was expanded to Taiwan, which the Department of Health said was due to the One China Policy.
Panelo also explained the the ban was due to the One China Policy, as well as the recommendation from WHO.
But WHO’s representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the organization did not recommend travel restrictions, citing its ineffectiveness as a deterrent to the virus.
On Thursday, Panelo appeared to have changed his position by quoting the president.
“‘Nothing to do with it. It’s the safety.’ Very emphatic siya [noong Wednesday], eh. ‘It transcends orders,’ sabi niya, ‘kung pinag-uusapan ang kalusugan ng mga kababayan natin,'” Panelo narrated.
Taiwan had repeatedly complained to the World Health Organization (WHO) for lumping it together with China, as it only has 18 virus cases compared to some 60,000 in the mainland.
This has created a wrong impression that Taiwan is also experiencing the same health crisis.
The death toll in the virus increased to 1,380 people as of end-Thursday, with more than 60,000 confirmed cases in more than 20 countries. (Randell Ritumalta/MM)
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