An eye for an eye

February 13, 2020

THE imposition of the Philippine government of a ban on travel to Taiwan has put the jobs of 160,000 Filipinos at risk as Taipei mulls retaliation for the travel restriction.

Manila Cultural and Economic Office (MECO) Chairman Lito Banayo said Taiwan is on the verge of slamming the Philippines with a number of directives which ultimately will have a direct effect on the fate of OFWs now in Taiwan and Filipinos who want to work in the island republic.

Banayo himself is now having a hard time booking a flight to the Philippines due to the unavailability of flights.

The Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) has asked the Philippine government to lift the travel ban and vehemently protester their being lumped with China in the travel ban.

One retaliatory measures may be the removal of the visa-free entry for Filipinos to Taiwan where close to 500,000 Filipino tourists traveled in 2019.

Meanwhile Taiwan electronic companies are demanding the return of the Filipinos who were on vacation and the coming of newly-hired Filipinos to keep up with the production of millions of electronic products  like the IPhone and other Apple  devices including the new IPhone 11 which the US firm is introducing to the market.

At present, over 6,000 Filipino workers have travel documents to return to Taiwan, 3,000 of them new hires while the rest are vacationing workers who have been processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)-BM Section.

Why Taiwan?

House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante questioned the travel ban on Taiwan, pointing out reports that the country is safe with fewer cases of 2019 corona virus disease (COVID-19) than others.

Abante said if reports are used as basis, there are more confirmed cases in Singapore compared to Taiwan.

Just recently, the government imposed a travel ban on China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to prevent the spread of the virus.  

The House committees on economic affairs and tourism jointly conducted a public hearing on the effects of the virus on the Philippines during which Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the tourism industry is expected to lose P42.9 billion in the next three months.

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) show that there are 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Singapore, double than the 18 confirmed cases in Taiwan.

“What is the basis of the DOH advisory to ban travel to and from Taiwan? Because I heard that the World Health Organization did not issue advisory of banning travels to and from Taiwan. And why is it that you are not banning travel to and from Singapore when Singapore has more issues on NCoV,” Abante asked Health Assistant Secretary Kenneth Ronquillo during the hearing.

OFWs reassured

The Department of Labor and Employment yesterday allayed fears that the imposition of the temporary travel ban on Taiwan may be detrimental to overseas Filipino workers.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the travel ban will have minimal effect on OFWs, expressing confidence that it will be lifted soon.

Bello said he is in constant coordination with the Department of Health and had already requested the lifting of the ban on departing workers.

“For those who are affected by the travel ban in Taiwan, we ask for your patience and in a few days, there will be a review. While waiting for the lifting of the ban, we are providing financial assistance,” he said.

The labor chief said those members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration who are affected by the ban are entitled to P10,000 financial assistance.

With Jester P. Manalastas, Lee Ann P. Ducusin