Taiwan travel ban unrelated to 'One China': Duterte spokesperson

02/13/2020 11:01 PM
CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 13 (CNA) Philippine Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo denied Thursday that the ban on Taiwanese visitors to the country was connected to Manila's "One China" policy, quoting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, at a regular press conference at the Malacanang Palace.

"I asked the President last night, he said the ban has nothing to do with it," Panelo said, answering a question on whether the ban is related to the "One China" policy.

"The president said his primary concern is the health and the safety of our countrymen. As long as the danger persists, then we have to do what is necessary to secure their safety," Panelo said, according to a video of the press conference.

In a separate interview with a local radio station in the Philippines, Panelo said Duterte wants time to conduct a more comprehensive study of the travel ban on Taiwan.

"He said, give me more time to ponder over the decision on whether to lift the ban or not. But for now, it is the health of our countrymen in his mind," Panelo said.

The Philippine government is expected to review its travel ban imposed on Taiwan and decide on whether to lift it at a cabinet-level meeting scheduled for Friday, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday.

MOFA was notified by the Philippine side about the meeting, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said in a statement, adding that Taiwan does not discount the possibility of taking corresponding measures against the Philippines depending on the outcome of that meeting.

The Philippine government first issued its travel ban on China Feb. 2 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) to the Philippines. A week later, it announced the extension of the ban to cover Taiwan, citing the World Health Organization's (WHO) listing of Taiwan as part of China.

Manila's pronouncement angered Taipei, which criticized the move as politically motivated.

Meanwhile, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) announced Friday that those unable to use their Philippine visas issued from Nov. 10, 2019 to Feb. 10, 2020 can start applying for refunds.

For sticker visas, the request for a refund should be accompanied by the relevant form, which is available at the MECO office, machine generated receipt, original passport, and photocopy of the visa issued, the MECO said.

Successful visa applicants may also be able to extend the validity of their visas for future travel to the Philippines, the de facto Philippine embassy in Taiwan said.

For visas obtained through Electronic Travel Authorization system, unused Electronic Travel Authorities (ETAs) issued from Jan. 10 onwards are eligible for a refund, MECO said, adding that applicants should submit the request form, original passport and photocopy of the ETA issued.

The office also said applications for sticker visas will still be accepted, providing the traveler is willing to assume the risk of being denied entry to the Philippines because of the travel ban.

(By Emerson Lim)

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