Martinelli vows diplomatic loyalty to Taiwan

Ma noncommital about finance for mass transit system

Panamanian President-elect Richardo Martinelli of the conservative ``Democratic Change`` party told visiting President Ma Ying-jeou Tuesday that his ``most important value`` was ``loyalty`` and aimed to continue and deepen decades-long bilateral ties, but his Taiwan counterpart remained uncommitted on the question of assistance for an ambitious mass transit system plan.

President Ma Ying-jeou of the right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) met with Martinelli at 5:30 pm Tuesday (6:30 am Taipei time), shortly after Ma and an entourage of nearly 200 senior government officials, staff, KMT lawmakers and journalists arrived on a chartered EVA Air Boeing 747-400 Combi jet at 3:40 pm from San Francisco.

According to a presidential spokesman, Martinelli was joined in the 15th floor ``Panama Presidential Suite`` in the Sheraton Panama Hotel by several of his expected Cabinet members while Ma was accompanied by National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi, Transportation Minister Mao Chih-kuo, Taiwan Ambassador to Panama Ko Sen-yao.

Martinelli, the son of an Italian immigrant and a millionaire owner of a supermarket chain, trounced Balbina Herrera, the nominee of the outgoing Party of Democratic Revolution, by a 61 percent to 37 percent margin in presidential elections held May 3.

A key plank in the president - elect`s campaign was an ambitious plan for a mass rapid transit system for the capital, which holds about one third of Panama`s 3.3 million people.

Ma related that Taiwan has considerable experience in urban mass transit system design, construction and operation with systems in use in Taipei, whose system was once selected as the world`s most reliable system for four consecutive years, and Kaohsiung.

Ma said that Taiwan can ``share this experience`` if needed by Panama and invited the Panamanian president elect to visit Taiwan after he is inaugurated and to dispatch a professional delegation to discuss areas and projects for which Panama hopes for assistance from Taiwan.

Ma noted that Taiwan`s foreign assistance was ``project based`` and said that such a delegation would meet with related ministries and jointly hold consultations on what Taiwan could provide for specific needs and projects.

The Panamanian president-elect also said that he has a deep interest in history and had was interested in cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China, while Ma related that his concept of ``diplomatic truce`` between Taiwan and mainland China aimed to allow all sides have international space and mutual benefit.

Regarding bilateral relations, Martinelli said that, in diplomatic affairs, the value to which he accorded the most weight was ``loyalty`` and said he was committed to retaining the friendship between Taiwan and Panama and hoped that the two countries will have a ``lasting trade relationship`` and hoped to attract more investment by Taiwan enterprises to Panama.

In response, Ma said he hoped the new Panamanian government would provide more information to help Taiwan companies have a better understanding of investment opportunities in the Central American country.

In a subsequent interview with the Panamanian ``La Prensa`` daily newspaper, the Associated Press and the Spanish EFE news agency, Ma replied to a question about whether Taiwan would provide financial support to the rapid transit system plan by reaffirming that Taiwan`s foreign assistance is ``project - based`` and founded on three principles of a ``appropriate goal, legal process and efficient implementation.``

Ma related that he had invited the new president to send a delegation to discuss Panama`s needs and then could send a delegation from Taiwan explore in more detail whether Panama needed technical assistance or shared knowhow or other means of support.

However, Ma did not issue a direct response to whether Taiwan would provide financial assistance, according to a presidential spokesman.

Updated : 2021-03-09 06:32 GMT+08:00