Taiwan lauds lifting of Philippines' coronavirus-related ban: Diplomacy works

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CNN Philippines (February 15) – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan has welcomed the Philippine government’s decision to lift the travel ban on visitors coming to and from the self-governing island, saying ‘diplomacy works.’

Jaushieh Wu, minister of foreign affairs said in tweet late Thursday, “I’m glad the Philippines government lifted its travel ban on #Taiwan. Thanks all who helped in the process. #Taiwan & the #Philippines are close neighbors & good friends. Mabuhay!”

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, in an Instagram post on Friday, thanked their "friends in the Philippines who spoke up for Taiwan" as she vowed to continue fostering closer ties with one of their closest neighbors. She said that Filipinos who study, visit and work in their state have nothing to worry about so long as they comply with health prevention guidelines on the viral disease officially called the COVID-19, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The Philippines’ Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases announced Friday that it is scrapping its order to bar the entry of tourists coming from Taiwan, citing the self-administered state’s implementation of “very strict and excellent protocols in handing travelers.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin said "there was never any sane reason to ban it."

The decision came after Manila Economic and Cultural Office chairperson Angelito Banayo reportedly warned on Wednesday that Taiwan might retaliate by cancelling the visa-free privileges of Filipinos visiting Taiwan, among others.

On February 10 or a week after the country widened the restrictions for people – except those with Philippine passports and Philippine resident visas -- coming into the country. The move was explained as a precaution amid the spread of the acute respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 across mainland China.

The Philippines' temporary travel ban originally covered tourists coming directly from mainland China, and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. President Duterte also considers China as one of, if not its most important Asian allies.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo earlier said Taiwan was considered by the World Health Organization as part of China, so it was included in the ban. The Philippines also follows the One China policy in diplomatic relations. But Malacañang said the travel ban on Taiwan has nothing to do with that, allaying concerns that the decision was politically motivated.

The body that handles Philippines-Taiwan affairs in the Philippines asserted that “Taiwan issues its own passport and visas and has exclusive jurisdiction over its people and territory.”

“Taiwan is not, nor has it ever been, part of the People’s Republic of China,” Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines said in a statement on Friday as it commended the recent move of the country.