Taiwan office reopening on Guam tomorrow after 3-year absence

CHEN: Director General Paul Yin-lien Chen of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office on Guam is photographed at his office in the ITC building in Tamuning Wednesday. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Taiwan's economic and cultural office on Guam is reopening Saturday which coincides with its Double Ten Day national holiday.

The return of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office comes after a three-year absence.

A more cozy relationship between Taiwan and the United States has been a factor in the decision to reopen the office on Guam which provides "people-to-people" exchange of culture as well as promote trade between Guam and Taiwan, said the office's Director General Paul Yin-lien Chen.

"I would say Taiwan and the U.S. relationship right now is probably the best ever in history," Chen said in a phone interview.

Chen has been on Guam for nearly two weeks and was previously based in the Los Angeles branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. Prior to Los Angeles, he was based in Chicago.

The Guam office was pulled back three years ago because of budget constraints.

This time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees its Guam office as a worthy endeavor as there is increased focus on bridging ties in the Indo-Pacific.

"We recognize the importance of Guam in this region. Guam has a very important role in this region and we feel the need to come back here," Chen said.

The Guam office will also play a role in Taiwan's relations with island nations in the Western Pacific region, stated a Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Joanne Ou, in a press briefing in early July.

Prior to the pandemic, about 30,000 tourists from Taiwan visited Guam each year and when travel resumes they will be provided with consular services by Chen's office when needed. And about 1,500 Guam residents traveled to world-class Taipei hospitals for medical care every year in recent years.

When the pandemic is over, two Taipei-based airlines are expected to resume direct flights to Guam, Chen said.

Chen said Taiwan has helped Guam with a donation of 200,000 masks in May. And Saturday, at the reopening of its office in the International Trade Center building in Tamuning, Taiwan will also donate four full-body temperature scanners to GovGuam.

Taiwan has become a model to the world when it comes to containing the pandemic.

In September, the island nation reported less than 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Taiwan's offices, businesses and schools are open but masks and social distancing are strictly enforced, said Chen. Taiwan's government provides five masks a week to each of its citizens, he said.

Chen said when the pandemic ends and travel resumes, he will push for more Taiwan private investments into Guam. Taiwan businesses have invested in the cement, power generation and real estate sectors on Guam.

Chen said the office will be limited to see customers by appointment-only for now.

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