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Relief contributions to Philippines help warm ties with Manila: MOFA

TAIPEI--A highly efficient disaster relief operation Taiwan carried out recently in typhoon-affected areas of the Philippines has highlighted Taiwan as an international disaster relief service provider, and could help improve relations between the two countries, Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lin said yesterday.

The people of Taiwan were among the first to respond to the suffering of the victims in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which ripped through the Philippines on Nov. 8, leaving thousands dead and tens of thousands displaced, Lin said.

The Republic of China government initially donated US$200,000 in cash on the third day after the typhoon struck and then sent large amounts of relief supplies to the affected areas via military cargo planes and a Navy vessel.

The supplies came from donation drives organized by private charity groups.

Looking back at the disaster assistance Taiwan extended to the Philippines over the past month, Lin said that President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah had instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to keep a close watch over the development after learning about the typhoon's destruction.

After confirming the scale of the devastation from the typhoon, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defense sent 18 sorties of military cargo planes with supplies raised by local civic groups to the Philippines in the five days after the disaster, Lin said.

On Nov. 25, a Republic of China Navy vessel, the Chung He, carrying another 530 metric tons of supplies, reached Cebu in central Philippines, according to Lin.

According to the statistics, the R.O.C. government and civic groups have offered over NT$300 million (US$10.13 million) worth of goods and assistance to the typhoon-struck Philippines.

Lin said that Philippine media outlets and the country's representative office in Taiwan have expressed their heartfelt gratitude to Taiwan for its swift relief efforts in the wake of the typhoon. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has privately thanked Taiwan for its assistance with post-disaster relief efforts.

“Aquino has praised Taiwan as a friend in need,” Lin said, quoting a Filipino official on Nov. 20.

Relations between Taiwan and the Philippines hit an all-time low following the May 9 shooting of a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in overlapping waters of the South China Sea.

Lin said the recent disaster relief Taiwan offered to the Philippines will be helpful for the positive development of relations between the two countries.

The Philippines is one of Taiwan's important neighbors and economic partners, Lin said.

He added that he looked forward to more opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, besides working together in the health and medical areas.

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