MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Spokesman Sal Panelo on Thursday said the decision of President Duterte to ban travel to and from Taiwan stays for now.
At the same time, Panelo made it very clear that public safety, not politics, is the reason by Malacanang behind the move.
Travel to and from China and its administrative regions Macau and Hong Kong was deemed prohibited by Malacanang owing to the continuing COVID-19 crisis.
The Department of the Health said Taiwan is included in the temporary travel ban as precautionary measure against the spread of the deadly virus.
It was also the DOH which announced last Monday that the ban also covered Taiwan and made a slip by citing the One-China policy which regards Taiwan as an “integral part of Chinese territory.
And this did not sit well with the Taiwanese government which immediately countered saying the ban was based on “wrong information” since Taiwan is not and has never been part of the People’s Republic of China.
As it is, Taiwan is now accordingly eyeing retaliatory measures against the Philippines and this may include the cancellation of the visa-free privileges given to Filipinos.
But Panelo insisted that the travel ban was meant to protect Filipinos from the COVID-19 and not for political reasons.
“The president said last night (February 12), ‘My primarily concern is the health and safety of our countrymen. Until the danger persists then we have to do what is necessary to secure their safety.'” Panelo said.
“Until the danger exists, the ban stays,” he added.
“Perhaps that (One-China policy) was the perception of DOH (Department of Health). But I asked the president last night and he said it has nothing to do with that. It’s the safety. He was very emphatic last night. He said the safety of our countrymen transcends borders,” Panelo said.
“That’s the basis. We are trying to secure the safety of our countrymen and prevent the spread of the disease,” he stressed (Ismael Amigo).