By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Joel Villanueva described as “wrong” the inclusion of Taiwan in the travel ban being implemented by the Philippines amid fears over the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Villanueva questioned the inclusion of Taiwan in the prohibition of flights coming from China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau, hitting the government’s adherence to the “One China” policy.
“Why include Taiwan in the travel ban when it only has 18 confirmed cases? To include it because of One China Policy is wrong,” the senator said in a tweet Thursday night, February 13.
“[The] Ban should apply to the source or to locations with high incidence of infection,” Villanueva added, further writing, “#PolicyThatMakesSensePls”.
The sudden expansion of the travel restriction affected hundreds of travelers, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were scheduled to leave for Taiwan, as authorities said there shall be no exemptions.
The Department of Health earlier announced that Taiwan was covered by the travel ban, saying it was in accordance to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) classification and the One China policy that the Philippines recognizes.
Taiwan opposed this move and asserted its sovereignty and independence from China. It was reported to be considering retaliatory measures should the Philippines fail to “immediately correct” its latest directive.
Dr. Tony Leachon, a preventive health education and health reform advocate, also objected to the inclusion of Taiwan in the travel ban.
“Taiwan, with its 18 virus cases compared with some 60,000 in China, it is unfair for the WHO to lump them together with China and mislead other countries into believing Taiwan faces an equally dire epidemic. It doesn’t make sense,” Leachon said on Twitter, agreeing with Villanueva.