President Ma Ying-jeou met on the evening of August 4 with Republic of Kiribati President Anote Tong and Mrs. Tong. In addition to welcoming President Tong back to Taiwan for another visit, President Ma also called for continued strengthening of bilateral relations and a lasting alliance.
In remarks, President Ma first thanked President Tong for sending him a letter to express his sympathies and condolences after the TransAsia Airways crash in the Penghu Islands recently.
As for cooperation projects between the two countries, President Ma stated, the ROC and Kiribati have carried out a clean energy project since 2010, under which the ROC has provided the South Pacific island nation with portable solar lamps, solar panels, and multi-functional solar-powered LED radios. The ROC hopes that Kiribati can make more use of its abundant sunshine as a source of renewable energy, so as to make its citizens' lives more convenient, he said.
Commenting on trade and economic ties, President Ma remarked that bilateral trade has tripled over the past 10 years. This year the two countries have already signed an Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income, the president said, expressing hope that this will lead to greater cooperation in the areas of trade and investment. As for cooperation in the development of human resources, President Ma noted, students come from Kiribati each year to study in Taiwan. Presently, 32 students from Kiribati are studying here and another 15 students will matriculate in the coming academic year that starts in September, he pointed out.
The president then spoke about cooperation in the area of healthcare and medicine. He stated that Taiwan's Mackay Memorial Hospital has for many years taken active part in a healthcare and medical cooperation program. On July 11 of this year, the Taiwan Health Center was inaugurated, and physicians will be stationed there on long-term assignments as part of the project to help provide health care to the Kiribati public, he said. President Ma added that the ROC and Kiribati also cooperate in agriculture and fisheries technology. One example is a milkfish cultivation project in which fish fry have been cultivated and released into the wild, he said. In addition, Taiwan's technical mission to Kiribati is actively promoting fruit and vegetable gardens and the consumption of this produce in Kiribati to address the incidence of non-communicable diseases, the president stated.
President Ma also expressed his heartfelt appreciation for the efforts made by Kiribati to speak at many international venues in support of meaningful participation for Taiwan in international organizations and activities. The president stated that the ROC's Minister of Health and Welfare has attended the World Health Assembly for six consecutive years since 2009 in the status of observer, and has spoken at the WHA about the experiences of Taiwan in its national health insurance and weight reduction campaigns, thus providing instructive reference for member countries and creating a win-win situation for all, the president said.
President Ma then mentioned that when he visited Kiribati in 2010, he saw clearly how global warming has caused sea levels to rise, which threatens the survival of Kiribati and other atoll nations in the Pacific. He remarked that President Tong, in response, has repeatedly spoken on behalf of atoll nations in urging the international community to address this issue. President Ma expressed hope that the ROC in the future can engage with the international community on this topic, so that everyone can work together to address the threats and challenges brought about by climate change.
Lastly, President Ma mentioned, his counterpart has an outstanding reputation in the international community and Kiribati has already been selected as a vice president of the 69th United Nations General Assembly. Kiribati will formally assume the post in January 2015, President Ma said, further expressing hope that Kiribati can use its position as vice president to continue speaking in support of Taiwan's participation in international activities.