Taiwan seeks lifting of PHL travel ban, says it is “wrong” for Taiwan to be confused with China

Taiwan foreign ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou holds a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 regarding the recent travel ban imposed by countries including the Philippines on Taiwan because of the novel coronavirus scare. The inclusion of Taiwan in the expanded travel ban was because of the World Health Organization (WHO) classification on Taiwan as being part of China under the ‘One China Policy.” (Photo grabbed from Agence France Presse video/ Courtesy AFPTV)


(Eagle News) — Taiwan on Tuesday, Feb. 11,  said that it would continue to communicate with the Philippine government in hopes of reversing a travel ban that the Philippines had imposed on Taiwan because of the novel coronavirus scare.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said that it was “wrong” for Taiwan to be confused with China after the Philippines included Taiwan on Monday in its travel ban, citing the World Health Organization (WHO) classification on Taiwan as being part of China.

“We are at the moment proactively in communication and have lodged representations with the Philippines, including the presidential office and foreign ministry, to tell them that we are not a virus area of China’s and that our country’s controlling of the novel coronavirus has been very good from the start. We are currently urging Government of the Philippines through all channels to change this unilateral decision as quickly as possible,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou in a media briefing on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

“In dealing with the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, many countries because of their ‘One China Policy’ lumped Taiwan as part of China, and thus created problems (for Taiwan),” she said.

“To confuse Taiwan with China has caused troubles for our side and in the international community,” she added.

Despite its cultural links and close proximity to China, Taiwan moved swiftly against the outbreak and currently has just 18 confirmed cases of the new virus.

But the self-ruled democracy has found itself increasingly caught up in travel restrictions aimed at China, where the outbreak has killed more than 1,000 people and infected over 42,000.

Late Monday the Philippines confirmed its current travel ban for China was being expanded to Taiwan under the so-called “one China” policy.

Beijing views Taiwan as its own territory — part of a “one China” — and has vowed to eventually take the island, by force if necessary.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Tuesday described that decision as “wrong and unilateral”.

“We have asked our foreign missions to actively convey to foreign governments, that firstly Taiwan is not China, and Taiwan is not a Chinese epidemic region. And the development is very different, Taiwan does not have a high risk of infection. We do not even have any cases of community outbreaks while they (China) have high infection risks and epidemic outbreaks,” Taiwan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Ou said.

The Philippines has so far not enacted any travel bans to countries like Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Thailand even though they have more confirmed infections than Taiwan.

As the virus has spread, some countries have also included Taiwan in their own China travel bans.

Italy has banned flights by Taiwanese carriers, Bangladesh has stopped Taiwanese travellers from entering while Mongolia initially enacted a ban and then said it would review visa applications on a case by case basis.

Taiwanese officials abroad have been communicating with various governments to clarify that Taiwan “is not part of the People’s Republic of China”, Ou said.

Taiwan has also contained the outbreak and has reported no community infection cases, she added.

When asked if Taipei suspected Beijing was pressuring Manila to expand the travel ban, Ou said: “China’s shadow is lurking… I think the Chinese factor is obvious.”

Taiwan said it would continue to communicate with Manila and said it had persuaded some countries including South Korea, Vietnam and Jordan to lift travel restrictions.

In recent years Beijing has pursued its “One China” view more aggressively, freezing Taiwan out of international bodies like the World Health Organization and pressuring businesses to list the island as part of China.

The coronavirus outbreak has vividly illustrated this isolation, with Taiwan the only place currently experiencing an outbreak that is not a part of the WHO.

Earlier, Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman Ou tried to reach out to WHO regarding its use of various names to refer to Taiwan such as “Taipei and environs,” “Taiwan, China”, “Taipei municipality” and “Taipei”.

“I’d like to ask the WHO, how many times are you going to change Taiwan’s name?” Ou said at a news conference on Feb. 6

“These are not our correct names. Let me reiterate – our name is Taiwan, whose formal name is the Republic of China. We beseech the WHO not to put Taiwan’s information under China, creating mistake after mistake after mistake,” she said.

(with a report by Agence France-Presse)