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The virus, officially named COVID-19, has spooked markets around the world, having killed more than 1,100 people and infected tens of thousands since it emerged in central China at the end of last year. Image Credit: AFP

Manila: The Philippines’ decision to implement measures to prevent the entry of the novel coronavirus in the country has led to a rift with next door neighbour Taiwan.

According to reports, Manila’s move to prevent passengers coming from Taiwan from entering the country had offended Taipei and the latter is said to be mulling the implementation of “retaliatory measures.”

“The move was not taken lightly by Taipei and now they are planning of coming up with a retaliatory response,” said Angelito “Lito” Banayo, chair of the Philippines’ de facto diplomatic office in Taiwan, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in a television interview by the GMA News network.

He said among the possible “retaliatory measure” is the cancellation of visa free entry privileges to Taiwan given to Filipinos.

Although the Philippines maintains relations with Taiwan, it does not officially recognise the latter as an entity that is separate from China.

China regards Taiwan as a “renegade” province.

This geopolitical reality also presents a challenge for the Philippines which is now imposing measures to protect its citizens from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) which has already killed nearly a thousand people in China.

Last February 2, the Philippine’s Bureau of Immigration implemented an order from President Rodrigo Duterte in banning all foreign nationals coming from China, as well as its Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau. Later on, on Monday, the restriction was extended to cover Taiwan.

According to Banayo, the Philippine government should make efforts to remove the restrictions imposed by the bureau of immigrations on arriving passengers from Taiwan.

“The Philippine government, particularly, the Department of Health should take another look at its decision to impose the ban. It should have looked at the political realities first before imposing the restriction,” Banayo said, adding that there are also thousands of Filipinos employed in Taiwan.

On the first day that the ban on travel to Taiwan was imposed, hundreds of travellers who went on vacation and want to return to the territory were barred by Philippine immigrations from exiting.

Under the guidelines of the Philippine immigrations, if a foreign passenger not exempted from the ban is encountered at the ports, he or she shall automatically denied entry and returned to his port of origin.

Filipinos and aliens who are exempted from the ban shall be turned over to the Bureau of Quarantine for their assessment, together with a copy of their arrival cards.

Filipinos are likewise temporarily not allowed to leave for China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan unless they are part of a government delegation conducting official duties, a member of the World Health Organisation, and other agencies involved in fighting or containing the Covid-19.