Philippines lifts Taiwan travel ban

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) — The Philippines on Friday lifted its travel ban on Taiwan -- a step welcomed by tourism officials as it minimizes the impact of the coronavirus scare on the tourist industry.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases decided to lift the travel restrictions effective immediately because of strict measures being undertaken by Taiwan to contain the spread of the new coronavirus or COVID-19.

The government this week included Taiwan in the travel ban ordered on Feb. 2 by President Rodrigo Duterte on China and its administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau to contain the spread of the virus.

DOH Spokesperson Eric Domingo on Monday announced Taiwan was being included in the travel ban as the World Health Organization considers it a part of China. The Philippines follows a One-China policy that recognizes Beijng and limits dealings with Taiwan to economic and cultural ties.

READ: Taiwan included in coronavirus travel ban – DOH

The lifting of Taiwan travel ban helps PH tourism

The ban drew criticisms including from Taipei, which said it was considering countermeasures if the Philippines did not lift the ban. Taiwan is a self-governed island that China considers as its province.

Taiwan is the country’s fifth largest tourist source market, boasting a double-digit increase of 35.01 percent for its 327, 273 arrivals from January to November in 2019, according to the Department of Tourism.

“The lifting of the travel ban on Taiwan is highly assuring and we hope that the nCov crisis would soon be resolved, worldwide. Ultimately, the recovery of all affected countries is a universal prayer, especially that tourism is an inclusive and sustainable business for and of the people,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said in a statement Friday.

The government has put in place all preventive and precautionary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, the statement added. It said guidelines in handling guests are being implemented in hotels and resorts around the country and facilities are equipped with infrared thermometers and more hand sanitizers.

DOT said the tourism sector has rallied behind it to soften the impact on inbound tourism by creating a program offering “value-added tour packages, discounted accommodation rates, and marked-down prices for domestic flights.”

Filipino workers also appealed earlier to Duterte to lift the ban, with those in the Philippines expressing fears they would lose the jobs waiting for them in Taiwan.

The remaining travel ban restricts the entry of foreign nationals coming directly from China, Hong Kong and Macau and those with travel history to those areas in the last 14 days. Filipinos and holders of permanent resident visas are allowed entry but have to undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine. Flights to the areas by local airlines have also been canceled.