On the morning of January 9, President Tsai Ing-wen met with a Tuvaluan delegation led by Parliamentary Speaker Samuelu Penitala Teo. In remarks, President Tsai thanked the government and parliament of Tuvalu for their staunch support for Taiwan, expressed through longstanding concrete action. The president stated that in this new year, facing such global challenges as climate change and post-pandemic economic recovery, Taiwan and Tuvalu will work together to promote our nations' sustainable development and contribute further to progress and prosperity around the world.
A translation of President Tsai's remarks follows:
Let me begin by welcoming Speaker Teo, Mrs. Miliaga Samuelu Teo, and the distinguished members of the delegation to Taiwan. Your visit, so soon after Tuvalu reopened its borders, demonstrates your support and high regard for our nations' diplomatic ties.
Speaker Teo, Mrs. Teo, and I met before at the Presidential Office in 2017, when Speaker Teo was a member of parliament. Today, he is visiting for the first time as speaker of parliament. I extend a sincere welcome to you, Speaker Teo.
Speaker Teo and the government of Tuvalu have long expressed their staunch support for Taiwan through concrete action. Last year, we saw Tuvalu voicing support for Taiwan and our international participation at such global events as the United Nations General Assembly and the World Health Assembly. On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I extend my gratitude to the government and parliament of Tuvalu.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic over the past few years, Taiwan and Tuvalu have continued to deepen cooperation across the board. For example, many Tuvaluan students have come to Taiwan to study through the Taiwan Scholarship program. Last year's scholarship recipients included Clerk to Parliament Andrew Puga Semeli, who came to Taiwan to pursue a doctoral degree, thereby furthering exchange between our countries. And last September, Prime Minister Kausea Natano led a delegation to Taiwan. Our two nations also reached a firm consensus on cooperation in clean energy and will work together to achieve the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
During this visit, Speaker Teo will also sign a joint statement with Legislative Yuan President You Si-kun (游錫堃) to strengthen our parliamentary cooperation and exchange.
I want to thank our visitors once again for their visit, which helps further bolster ties and expand cooperation between Taiwan and Tuvalu. In this new year, facing such global challenges as climate change and post-pandemic economic recovery, Taiwan and Tuvalu will work together to advance our nations' sustainable development and contribute further to global progress and prosperity.
Speaker Teo then delivered remarks, a transcript of which follows:
I thank you, Madam President, for the warm hospitality you have extended to me and my delegation since our arrival on your shores. The parliament and people of Tuvalu commended Taiwan for its outstanding achievement in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, especially at the height of the pandemic in 2020. This profound commitment to addressing a global health issue and other current problems for the benefit and protection of humanity should be recognized.
Tuvalu received extensive support from Taiwan before and during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in the form of medical equipment and budgetary resources. This support greatly assisted the government in its effort to vaccinate its eligible population and contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country. This generosity demonstrates Taiwan's ability to help the world address global crises. It demonstrates Taiwan's ability to address critical issues of the world, demonstrating Taiwan's ability and openness to help its neighbors, allies, and countries in need. Therefore, Tuvalu will continue to support and advocate Taiwan's importance as an observer in the UN (United Nations), WHO (World Health Organization), UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).
History has shown that Tuvalu is Taiwan's first ally in the Pacific, making it the oldest ally, established in 1979. We the people of Tuvalu are pleased to note that this relationship continues to strengthen year after year. The number of Taiwan-funded projects has continued to increase, including projects to improve public services such as mobile phones and internet connections in Tuvalu, human development, health, agriculture, technology, and culture.
Human development is one of the most important areas for Tuvalu. In recent years, Tuvalu has typically recruited nurses from Fiji and Kiribati because there was a shortage of nurses in the country. Some Fijian and Kiribati nurses are still working in Tuvalu to solve this problem. I thank your government for funding the online nursing program offered by the Fiji National University (FNU), so that Tuvaluan nurses can earn their certificates in nursing. With more than 10 Tuvaluan nurses graduating from the FNU in December 2022, this will increase the number of qualified nurses serving the people of Tuvalu.
The Tuvalu Parliament will continue to promote our inter-parliamentary cooperation through discussion and exchange programs, if such programs could be established. Tuvalu will keep holding the values of democracy, justice, and respect for human rights. The same principles were embraced by Taiwan. To completely realize the objectives of democracy, the rule of law, peace, and human rights, we shall continue to work in partnership.
Today, Madam President, I would want to reaffirm to you that Tuvalu will continue to be steadfast in support of Taiwan's bid to become an observer in international organizations. I wish you, your government, and your people success in 2023 on behalf of my delegation.
The visiting delegation also included Members of Parliament Mackenzie Kiritome and Fatoga Talama, and was accompanied to the Presidential Office by Tuvalu Ambassador Bikenibeu Paeniu.