February 13 ------ The visa-free entry of Filipinos into Taiwan may be canceled after it was included in the list of countries covered by the travel ban implemented by the Philippines due to the threat of COVID-19. Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei Chair Angelito Banayo, in an interview over radio station dzMM on Wednesday, warned of possible reactive and retaliatory measures from Taiwan following the travel restrictions set by the Philippine government.
“Maraming possible retaliatory measures,” Banayo said. “One possible retaliatory measure is i-cancel ‘yun [visa-free entry for Filipinos in Taiwan].” The government’s temporary travel ban covers travelers from mainland China and its special administrative regions, except Filipinos and permanent visa holders. It also prohibits Filipinos from traveling to those areas.
Earlier this week, the Department of Health (DOH) officially announced that Taiwan has been included in the temporary travel restriction imposed by the Philippines due to COVID-19 because it is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be part of China. Soon after, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines said Taiwan was “wrongly included” in the Philippines’ expanded travel ban. TECO also urged the government to “immediately correct its decision on Taiwan and remove Taiwan from the travel ban.”
For the Taiwan government, Banayo noted that the Philippines’ move for imposing the ban is more of “political” than being health-related. “Lumalabas na hindi health issue ‘yung pagdagdag sa Taiwan, lumalabas na political issue.” In 2017, Taiwan gave Filipinos a 14-day visa-free privilege. It has been extended until July 2020 as “a display of Taiwan’s amity with the Philippines.” However, with the recent travel ban, Banayo explained that the privilege may be cancelled, and that the Taiwan government may already be looking at possible retaliatory measures against the Philippines over the travel ban issue.