TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan is considering countermeasures if the Philippines does not lift a ban on Taiwanese citizens visiting the country over fears about the coronavirus, the island’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.
The Philippines, more than 115,000 of whose nationals work in Taiwan in factories and as domestic helpers, said this week it had included Taiwan as part of a ban on people from China visiting the country.
Taiwan is governed entirely separately from China, but Beijing claims the island as its own and the World Health Organization (WHO) clubs its virus cases in the category for China, which has led some countries to impose the same restrictions on Taiwanese as on Chinese citizens.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters in Taipei that Taiwan had a planned response if the Philippines maintained its ban, but she declined to elaborate, saying a decision was awaited from the Philippines government.
Ou said “we will continue to communicate with the Philippines and explain that this is a one-sided and wrong decision by the Philippines’ health ministry, which has already affected the relationship between the two countries of Taiwan and the Philippines.”
Taiwan and the Philippines have close economic and cultural ties, but no formal diplomatic relations, as the Philippines, like most countries, only recognizes the government in Beijing, and not in Taipei.
Taiwan has repeatedly complained that with its 18 virus cases compared with some 60,000 in China means it is unfair for the WHO to lump them together with China and mislead other countries into believing Taiwan faces an equally dire epidemic.
Reporting by Fabian Hamacher; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore
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