Philippines imposes ban on Taiwanese visitors, causing travel snarls

02/11/2020 12:41 PM
Taiwanese travelers stranded at Manila Airport (Photo courtesy of a private contributor)
Taiwanese travelers stranded at Manila Airport (Photo courtesy of a private contributor)

Manila, Feb. 11 (CNA) The Philippine government made clear on Monday evening that a travel ban imposed on Chinese visitors due to the coronavirus will apply to Taiwan, causing some 150 Taiwanese passengers to be refused entry at several airports.

The clarification made by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) came at the end of a day of confusion when Philippine officials sent mixed signals and the head of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taiwan said "immigration on the ground is not banning Taiwanese entry."

The clarification issued late Monday night by the Philippine CAB said its order dated Feb. 2 "relating to the travel ban as contained in the Presidential directive of 2 February 2020, includes Taiwan under the One China Policy."

The order bars entry to all people except for Filipino citizens coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan or who have been to any of those four places in the 14 days preceding arrival.

It also bars Filipinos from traveling to those four destinations.

Roughly 150 travelers on flights to Cebu, Kalibo and Manila that arrived in the Philippines after the clarification was issued were not allowed entry, an official from Taiwan's representative office in the Philippines who declined to be named told CNA on Tuesday.

Citing reports from tour guides, the official said 106 Taiwanese travelers trapped at the Kalibo airport were to return to Taiwan on Tuesday, while those at the Manila airport were due to fly home on a China Airlines flight scheduled to depart at 10:45 a.m.

Based on flight tracking websites, a special Philippines AirAsia flight flew from Kalibo to Taoyuan International Airport on Tuesday morning, and the China Airlines flight took off at around 12:20 p.m.

In Taipei, several travel agencies have canceled Philippine-bound group tours scheduled to set off Tuesday.

Statistics compiled by travel agencies on Tuesday showed that around 500 people from Taiwan are currently on tours in the Philippines, and the companies said they are arranging flights for the smooth return to Taiwan of those travelers.

Lion Travel said more than 300 of its customers are in the Philippines, including in Cebu, Boracay and Palawan, while Cola Tour said the itineraries of its 13 tour groups consisting of 176 people that are now in the Philippines will not be affected by the newest travel ban.

The coronavirus outbreak has left more than 1,000 people dead worldwide, mostly in China. The Philippines have reported three confirmed cases as of Monday, while Taiwan has recorded 18 cases.

(By Angie Chen, Yu Hsiao-han and Elizabeth Hsu)

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