Minority Leader Rep. Benny Abante Jr. on Saturday welcomed the government’s decision to remove Taiwan from the list of areas covered by the country’s travel ban, saying the move would benefit the 120,000 overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan and help lessen the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the economy.

“This is good news for the thousands of our kababayans working in Taiwan, particularly those who regularly travel to and from Taiwan,” said Abante.

“I understand that our health officials want us to take every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our country, and I commend them for the steps they have taken to monitor and contain the disease,” the lawmaker added.

“The measures we take must also take into consideration the initiatives made by other governments.” 

“However, the measures we take must also take into consideration the initiatives made by other governments to take similar precautions, as well as the advisories from WHO,” added the solon.

“When it is determined that travel restrictions are not necessary, then we should not impose them so as not to further exacerbate the adverse economic effects of the outbreak.”

Malacañang late Friday afternoon announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) had decided to lift the travel restrictions to Taiwan in recognition of the strict measures being undertaken by Taiwan to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Abante had earlier questioned the imposition of travel restrictions on Taiwan, pointing out in the joint hearing of the House committees on Economic Affairs and Tourism that a travel ban covering Taiwan has not been included in any World Health Organization (WHO) advisory.

At the hearing, the representative from Manila quizzed Department of Health Assistant Secretary Kenneth Ronquillo, asking him: “What is the basis of the DOH advisory to ban travel to and from Taiwan? Because I heard that the WHO did not issue an advisory of banning travels to and from Taiwan.”

The legislator likewise stressed that there were other jurisdictions that had more COVID-19 cases, yet were not covered by travel restrictions. 

Moving forward, Abante suggested that the IATF come up with concrete standards in assessing the need to impose travel restrictions to areas with the recorded cases, and implement these consistently in order to assure foreign governments that COVID-19 travel policies are neither baseless nor arbitrary. 

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