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Health minister arrives in Geneva for WHA
【Politics】2013-05-19  15:11:55
Geneva, May 19 (CNA) Taiwan's Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta arrived in Geneva Saturday to attend this year's World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making arm of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Chiu told reporters after his arrival that he will speak at 19 technical sessions during the 66th WHA, which is being held from May 20-28.

It will be the largest number of technical meetings Chiu has attended since Taiwan began to take part in the annual WHA as an observer in 2009, the minister said.

In addition, Chiu said he plans to hold private meetings with counterparts from 25 countries.

"Meetings with health ministers of 16 of those countries have been set and arrangements for talks with the remaining countries are still ongoing," Chiu said, noting that the number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the forum will also be the highest ever.

Chiu will meet with China's new health minister, Li Bin, mainly to discuss the outbreak of the new H7N9 avian flu strain and China's restructuring of its health and family planning agencies.

It will mark the first time that health ministers from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have met since the two sides signed a bilateral health and medical cooperation agreement in 2010.

Chiu, who is heading a 20-member delegation to the WHA, said this year's WHA has received a lot of attention because 2013 has seen the emergence of the deadly H7N9 bird flu strain in China and it also marks the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Noting that Taiwan is the only place outside China to have reported an H7N9 case, Chiu said Taiwan has decoded and unveiled the virus's genetic sequence through a sample obtained from the infected patient, who has since made a steady recovery.

Chiu said Taiwan looks forward to making further contributions to the fight against the new bird flu variety.

In his report to the WHA, Chiu said he will outline Taiwan's health promotion achievements.

Among them, Taiwan has lowered the children's hepatitis B virus carrier rate from 10.6 percent to below 0.6 percent and made progress in liver transplant technology, with five-year survival rates reaching 76 percent, one of the world's highest, Chiu said.

Meanwhile, Hsu Ming-hui, director of the Department of Health's Bureau of International Cooperation, said Chiu has canceled a planned meeting with his Philippine counterpart on the WHA sidelines because of an ongoing diplomatic row between the two countries.

"The Philippines has hoped to learn from our national health insurance system and advanced medical expertise, but we have informed Manila that the ministerial level meeting has been dropped due to the dispute," said Hsu, who is a member of Taiwan's delegation to the WHA.

Relations between Taiwan and the Philippines have been strained since a Philippine government patrol boat sprayed bullets at an unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat operating in the overlapping exclusive economic zones of the two countries on May 9.

Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng was killed in the attack, and the fishing boat was seriously damaged.

Manila's failure to satisfy Taiwan's demands for a formal apology, government compensation for the victim's family, an investigation into the case and punishment of those responsible, and the start of fishery talks prompted Taiwan to take retaliatory measures.

They included freezing the hiring of Filipino workers, recalling Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the Philippines, suspending bilateral technological cooperation and discouraging visits to the Southeast Asian country.

(By Emmanuelle Tzeng and Sofia Wu)
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