Japan, Taiwan deliver non-Covid-19 aid, US to provide large aid package to Marshalls

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MAJURO — Despite global disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic, ambassadors from Japan and Taiwan provided non-Covid related aid donations to the Marshall Islands in ceremonies in Majuro this past week.

Meanwhile, the United States Interior Department announced Saturday that the coronavirus stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump includes at least $55 million for U.S.-affiliated islands in the Pacific for “economic and pandemic” aid. In addition, funds to aid governments, businesses, school systems, workers, and families include potential eligibility for over $500 million in assistance through education, agriculture and treasury relief funds.

Japan Ambassador Norio Saito joined Marshall Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Casten Nemra to sign exchange notes for two Japan Grant Aid Projects that will provide $7.4 million in project aid. One grant of $3.3 million for the Marshall Islands to purchase diesel fuel for its power utility companies.

Japan Ambassador Norio Saito and Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Casten Nemra sign two grant agreements in Majuro as President David Kabua and members of his cabinet look on.  Marshall Islands President's Office photo

The second grant of $4.1 million will fund the construction of a training and operation center for the Marshall Islands Ministry of Justice, including its attorney general’s office, national police and sea patrol. This aims to bring under one roof key components of the nation’s justice and law enforcement system that are currently housed in different facilities.

Minister Nemra expressed his gratitude and said the contribution of funding for diesel fuel comes at a good time considering the current coronavirus outbreak. He said it will assist communities in the outer islands.

At a separate ceremony at the International Conference Center in Majuro earlier last week, Taiwan provided the Marshall Islands with 100 solar streetlights, 66 battery sets and $20,000 to cover installation fees during a handover ceremony of the ongoing Solar Street Lighting Project. Taiwan has provided hundreds of solar streetlights and solar lighting equipment for community buildings that have been installed in both urban centers as well as many remote outer islands.

Taiwan Ambassador Jeffery Hsiao told President David Kabua, Cabinet members and other officials attending the solar streetlight handover that he was always touched when visiting outer islands to see these streetlights adorned with the Taiwan and Marshall Islands flags providing light for local residents.

In announcing the new U.S. government Covid-19 funding package, U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Douglas Domenech said: “The islands are especially vulnerable with healthcare systems that could be overwhelmed quickly and limited healthcare workers. We will continue to support the island areas and wish the island leadership all the best as they execute plans to protect and defend their communities.”