Friday, February 14, 2020

Taiwan appeals travel ban

‘Is China behind Manila’s move?’

THE PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific (CEB), and AirAsia Philippines have cancelled all flights to and from Taiwan after Manila imposed a temporary ban due to outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Manila first issued a travel ban February 2 on all tourists from China and its Special Administrative Regions - Hong Kong and Macao –to prevent the spread of the disease, and included Taiwan a week later. 

There were reports that Beijing allegedly pressured Manila to strongly abide by the “One-China Policy” and include Taiwan in the expanded travel ban. Beijing has strongly maintained that Taiwan is part of China.

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said the imposition of the travel ban was due to increasing concern about the spread of the virus and because many people did not want to travel, local carriers were prompted to cancel flights to and from China, Hong Kong and Macao, Taiwan included. 

Both PAL and CEB are offering Manila-Taipei-Manila routes, while AirAsia Philippines has routes to Taipei and Kaohsiung from Manila, Clark, and Cebu.

Taiwan has appealed to Manila to lift the travel ban. 

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila has expressed its grave concern about the travel ban, in which Taiwan was wrongly included, issued by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) on February 10.

“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 is not, 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 said.

“It is a factual error for the World Health Organization (WHO) to regard Taiwan as a part of PRC (Peoples Republic of China). 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,” it added.

There are nearly 200,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan and could be affected by the ban should Taipei retaliates against the Philippines. Taiwan has over a dozen cases of coronavirus, but no reports of death from the disease.

The One-China Policy can be traced back to 1949 and the end of the Chinese civil war after the defeated Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang, retreated to Taiwan and made it their seat of government while the victorious Communists began ruling the mainland as the People's Republic of China. Since then China has threatened to use force if Taiwan ever formally declares independence.

Former Senator Francis Escudero, now Sorsogon governor, also questioned Manila’s travel ban. “Why was Taiwan included in the travel ban? It is clearly separate and distinct from mainland China and is similarly situated in relation to other countries with CORVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019). Is the basis for political rather than for health reasons? It’s just unfair to a lot of Filipinos in Taiwan,” he said.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said there was no need for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade in trying to halt the spread of a coronavirus in China. “We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent,” Tedros said. (Cebu Examiner, PNA.)

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