Palau president visits Taiwan to open journey bubble

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TAIPEI: Palau’s chief flew into Taiwan on Sunday (Mar 28) as the 2 coronavirus-free allies put together to launch a journey hall to spice up their pandemic-hit vacationer sectors.

A constitution flight carrying President Surangel Whipps landed at Taoyuan worldwide airport for the beginning of a four-day go to and to kick off what the 2 sides are billing as Asia’s first journey bubble.

Whipps will meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, attend a Palau tourism promotional occasion in addition to go to shipbuilding and aquaculture corporations, Taipei’s international ministry mentioned.

He’s set to return to Palau on Thursday with a bunch of 110 Taiwanese vacationers on the primary of weekly trip flights.

The plan is to finally have 16 flights per week on the route, a serious lifeline for Palau’s financial system that earlier than the pandemic relied on tourism for greater than half its gross home product.

“The principle cause we’re going is de facto to open up the journey hall as a result of tourism is our largest financial driver and it is vital to get the tourism again in operation,” Whipps informed Taiwan’s Central Information Company (CNA) in a latest interview.

“I believe it is vital to exhibit to the world that this could work.”

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Palau, which lies about 1,000km east of the Philippines, is among the few locations on Earth by no means to have recorded a COVID-19 case.

The journey bubble is partly as a consequence of Palau’s particular relationship with Taiwan.

It’s one in all solely 15 nations worldwide to supply Taipei diplomatic recognition within the face of China’s long-standing declare that Taiwan is a part of its territory.

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Whipps mentioned strict measures could be enforced to guard Palau’s 18,000-strong inhabitants.

Taiwanese guests should bear pre-flight coronavirus checks, they’ll journey solely in tour teams and are barred from making particular person excursions.

Contact with Palau locals might be stored to a minimal, with vacationers staying at designated resorts, consuming in separate restaurant areas and allowed to buy solely at set instances.

Taiwan – inhabitants 23 million – has been hailed for example in containing the virus, with fewer than 1,020 confirmed circumstances and 10 deaths.

Taiwanese officers mentioned the 110 slots within the first tour group to Palau had been offered out.

Whipps has acknowledged no system is foolproof however mentioned Taiwanese well being authorities had calculated that the possibility of COVID-19 reaching Palau through the journey bubble was one in 4 million.

Democratic Taiwan lives underneath the fixed menace of invasion by authoritarian China, which views the island as its personal territory and has vowed to someday seize it.

Beijing has poached seven of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies whereas ramping up army and financial stress since Tsai’s 2016 election win as a result of she rejects its stance that Taiwan is a part of China.

Whipps informed CNA he had rebuffed Beijing’s overtures to modify recognition after he gained the presidential election final yr.

“I informed them, you already know, I imagine that we must be free to decide on who our pals are,” he mentioned.

“We worth the connection that we have now with Taiwan and no person ought to inform us that relationship must be severed.”

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Palau is amongst 4 remaining Asia-Pacific international locations that formally recognise Taipei over Beijing, together with the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu.

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