No promises made to Guatemala on aid request: MOFA

08/10/2017 07:43 PM
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Taipei, Aug. 10 (CNA) Taiwan is still evaluating a request by Guatemala for further assistance on a major highway project and has not made any commitments on the matter, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the first three phases of the Jacob Arbenz highway project (CA-9 Norte) were carried out with engineering and financial assistance from Taiwan, and Guatemala is hoping that Taiwan will continue to help with the fourth phase of the construction.

However, in the absence of a substantial plan on Guatemala's side, Taiwan cannot promise anything at present, the official said.

The official also confirmed that Guatemala had requested other monetary aid from Taiwan but said it was turned down because MOFA is operating on a tight annual budget of NT$24.4 billion (US$805.04 million).

The official was responding to questions about a report datelined Aug. 7 in a Belizean newspaper the Amandala, which said Taiwan had approved a "mega-financing package" for the US$680 million highway project in Guatemala.

The newspaper, which cited reports in Guatemalan media, said Taiwan has promised Guatemala a grant of US$250 million and a 30-year loan of US$350 million to help build the highway.

According to the newspaper, Taiwan's funding to Guatemala "is 10 times more than what it is providing to Belize."

"The Taiwanese care more about our neighbors," a Belizean was quoted in the report as saying. "Shouldn't then Belize investigate if China, mainland China, wants to be friendly with Belize?"

Belizean media had earlier reported that Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lee (李大維) had signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation with Belize during a visit there in July, in which Taiwan promised an aid package of US$60 million over a four-year period.

Of that amount, US$20 million will be treated as a grant and the remaining US$40 million as a loan, according to some of the reports.

Commenting on the Amandala report late Wednesday, MOFA spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) confirmed that Guatemala has indeed requested a monetary grant but she said it is "totally impossible" for Taiwan to made such as promise, given the Taiwan government's difficult financial situation.

Asked about the possibility of Belize switching diplomatic allegiance to Beijing, Andrew Lee (李憲章), a new MOFA spokesman, said the channel of communication between Taiwan and Belize remains smooth and bilateral cooperation projects are proceeding as usual. Guatemala and Belize in Central America are two of Taiwan's 20 diplomatic allies.

(By Scarlett Chai and Y.F. Low)


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