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Taiwan's CAL to increase flights to Palau to help boost tourism

2019/03/22 22:11:09

Koror, Palau, March 22 (CNA) China Airlines (CAL), one of Taiwan's major carriers, will offer an additional direct flight to Palau from June 1, bringing the total number of weekly flights to four, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. during a meeting Friday.

Tsai, who is currently in Palau on the first leg of a visit to three Pacific island allies, said she delivered the good news to Remengesau, hoping it would prompt more Taiwanese to visit the Pacific nation.

CAL, which is partly state owned, currently offers three direct flights a week between Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Palau.

The Taiwanese airline began providing charter flights between Taiwan and Palau in 2008 and offering scheduled services in 2009. The average passenger load on the regular flights have reached around 80 percent over the past year, the airline said earlier this year.

Palau's economy relies heavily on tourism and in recent years, a large percentage of the tourists have come from China. Beijing is widely believed to be trying to woo away Taiwan's remaining 17 allies, including the six in the Pacific.

In late 2017, China banned Chinese travel agencies from arranging group tours to Palau, apparently to pressure the island nation to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing. Palau nonetheless maintained diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

It is hoped the extra CAL flight will bring more Taiwanese tourists to Palau, but it is unclear whether there will be enough Taiwanese tourists to fill the loss in Chinese tourists.

Tsai made the announcement at a signing ceremony for an agreement on sea patrol cooperation between the two countries. At the ceremony, she also announced that she and Remengesau will attend the first exercise of Taiwan's Patrol Ship Hsun-Hu No. 7 in Palau on Saturday.

Few details were released about how the two countries will cooperate on sea patrols and why they feel they have a need to do joint patrols.

Earlier on Friday, Tsai visited the Palau National Congress.

Palau's Foreign Relations and State Affairs Committee Chair Mario Gulibert then read a joint resolution from the 10th House of Delegates and Senate supporting Taiwan.

In response, Tsai said that Taiwan and Palau have a lot in common, including a shared Austronesian heritage and culture, as well as rich marine resources.

Most importantly, she noted, the two nations also uphold the values of democracy and freedom and have supported each other over the past 20 years.

Tsai also expressed her gratitude toward Kuniwo Nakamura, the former president of Palau, for his efforts to establish diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1999, as well as to Palau's longstanding commitment to speaking up for Taiwan in the United Nations, the World Health Organization and many important regional organizations.

In a gesture to further showcase the friendship between the two nations, Tsai and Remengesau planted mango saplings outside the Congress building.

According to Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tsai will stay in Palau until Saturday, after which she will head to Nauru for a visit on Sunday and Monday, before arriving in the Marshall Islands on Tuesday to attend the first Pacific Women Leaders' Coalition Conference. She will make a stopover in Hawaii on the return leg of her trip.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang and Chung Yu-chen)