Taipei, Feb. 14 (CNA) The Philippine government on Friday decided to lift its travel ban against Taiwan following an internal debate, capping off a week of uncertainty over the fate of travel ties between the two countries amid the coronavirus epidemic.
Philippine presidential spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo confirmed in a statement Friday evening that the Philippines has lifted the travel ban imposed Feb. 10, effective immediately.
The decision to lift the ban was made by the Philippines' Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) and was based on the "strict measures...and protocols" Taiwan's government is implementing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the statement said.
It did not make reference to the Philippines' one-China policy, which was cited as the basis of Taiwan's inclusion in the travel ban covering China, Macau and Hong Kong on Feb. 10.
Sources in the Philippines said the idea of lifting the ban was discussed at a risk assessment meeting held at Manila's Malacañang Palace on Friday.
During the discussions, both the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taiwan and Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III argued in favor of lifting the ban due to its potential impact on the 150,000 Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan, Philippine officials who declined to be named told CNA earlier Friday.
The Philippines' Civil Aeronautics Board issued the ban on Monday night, stating that under the country's one-China policy, Taiwan would be included in a Feb. 2 presidential directive banning travel from China and its special administrative regions.
The policy barred the entry of travelers from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as well as travelers who had visited those four destinations in the 14 days preceding arrival, with the exception of Filipino citizens and holders of permanent resident visas.
It also banned Filipinos from traveling to Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Macau.
The ban was widely criticized in Taiwan for its anticipated effect on business, travel and labor ties between the two countries.
The latest statement said other jurisdictions affected by the travel ban, including Macau, will also be re-evaluated in the coming days, with a final decision to be based on the success of measures taken in each respective location.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Friday it welcomed the decision by the Philippines and urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to swiftly correct its designation of Taiwan as part of China, which was believed to have informed the Philippine government's travel ban.