February 12 ------ Taiwan urged the Philippines on Tuesday to lift a travel ban on Taiwanese imposed after Manila included the island as part of restrictions on people coming from China to control the spread of the coronavirus. After Italy banned Taiwan flights earlier this month, the Philippines' Bureau of Immigration late on Monday (February 10) said a travel ban for Taiwanese would take effect immediately and follow the same procedures as in the previously announced restriction that covered China, including Hong Kong and Macau.
Reacting to Taiwan’s call, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Philippines would only lift the ban should there be a favorable recommendation from the World Health Organization. “The travel ban, I understand, that included China was the basis of the World Health Organization including Taiwan as part of China. And since there’s a ban on China, necessarily, Taiwan being part of China is included,” Panelo told reporters on Tuesday. “If the World Health Organization says there is a need for lifting of the ban in any part of those already announced who have travel ban, then we will, I suppose, do so.”
More than 115,000 Filipinos live and work in Taiwan, mainly in factories and as household helpers. Taiwan and the Philippines also have close economic and cultural ties, though no formal diplomatic relations as the Philippines, like most countries, only recognizes the government in Beijing and not in Taipei. Taiwan is entirely separately governed from China, but Beijing claims the island as its own and the World Health Organization (WHO) includes Taiwan's own small number of virus cases under China's. Taiwan has complained this WHO listing has misled other countries into believing the island poses the same health risk as China and to imposing the same travel and flight bans as China faces. Taiwan has only 18 cases, compared to over 42,000 for China.
Military tensions have also recently spiked between China and the island since Sunday, when Taiwan F-16s shadowed Chinese fighters and bombers which flew around the island. On Monday, Taiwan's air force scrambled after Chinese jets briefly crossed an unofficial middle line in the Taiwan Strait, which both sides' forces generally stay on their respective sides of. Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory, to be taken by force if needed.