Addressing a planned visit to Taiwan by Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr. on March 28, Presidential Office Spokesperson Xavier Chang (張惇涵) stated that President Tsai Ing-wen sincerely welcomes President Whipps on behalf of our government and people, and looks forward to the launch of the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble. This would be President Whipps' first trip abroad after taking office in January, and would also mark the first time a head of state from a diplomatic ally has visited Taiwan since the start of the pandemic, demonstrating the deep friendship between Taiwan and Palau as well as the success of our cooperative disease prevention model.
Spokesperson Chang observed that our Pacific ally Palau has an outstanding record of zero confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, earning it recognition alongside Taiwan as one of the safest countries in the world. President Whipps had been actively promoting a Taiwan-Palau travel bubble even before taking office, and this past January, President Tsai designated Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) as the head of the delegation that attended President Whipps' inauguration ceremony. Taiwan was the only foreign government invited to attend, reflecting the importance of our countries' friendship.
Spokesperson Chang stated that the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble will be formally launched after the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other related agencies in Taiwan conclude close and intensive discussions with their Palauan counterparts to ensure that the two countries maintain disease control, provide effective oversight, and can undertake an appropriate relaxation of restrictions. President Tsai thanked all those involved on both sides for working together to plan the travel bubble, and expressed hope that Taiwan and Palau can gradually resume normal exchanges, revitalizing both countries' tourism sectors and further enhancing our friendly diplomatic ties.
Spokesperson Chang noted that Taiwan and Palau established diplomatic ties in 1999, 22 years ago, and that we enjoy a loyal friendship based on close cooperation in infrastructure, agricultural technology, healthcare, clean energy, and education. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan has helped Palau fight the disease by donating face masks, testing equipment, and other supplies, and by arranging charter flights for Palauans to receive treatment in Taiwan, with Taiwan's medical team in Palau also assisting in domestic disease prevention work. The launch of this travel bubble once again highlights Taiwan's success in controlling COVID-19 while also providing a model for successful cross-border cooperation in disease control.
Spokesperson Chang stated that President Whipps is due to arrive in Taiwan on March 28, and said that the president's preliminary itinerary includes promotion of tourism in Palau and visits to important local facilities as well as a meeting and banquet with President Tsai on March 30. Spokesperson Chang expressed hope that Taiwan and Palau will continue to build on our close bilateral partnership, and emphasized that travelers are expected to follow the CECC's five main disease prevention principles for the Taiwan-Palau travel bubble, which is set to boost both our countries' economies and tourism sectors while ensuring the safety and health of all involved.