Patients needing off-island medical treatments and Taiwanese citizens stranded on island boarded the Taiwan-bound charter flight Monday for the inaugural Humanitarian and Medical Mission launched by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
“We believe this first charter flight will not be the last. This is the only beginning,” TECO Director General Paul Chen said during the pre-departure ceremony held at the Gate 8 of the AB Won Pat International Airport Guam.
The China Airlines-chartered flight transported 50 passengers including Guam residents whose scheduled medical treatments have been stalled when Taiwan flights were grounded last year due the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Today we make it possible for some of those with medical needs to make that trip,” Chen said.
Also aboard the charter flight were Taiwan citizens, who had been stranded on Guam and Saipan as a result of the flight suspension.
Of about 100 stranded Taiwanese citizens, Chen said, some have managed to return home on their own. “Dozens remained unable to leave. They will also return to Taiwan on today’s flight,” Chen said.
Chen said the flight arrangement was coordinated with the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Monday’s flight, Chen said, signals the eventual resumption of direct flights between Guam and Taiwan.
“We want to see Taiwanese tourists coming to Guam and patients from Guam being received for medical treatments in Taiwan,” he said. “We are confident that the nonstop flights will resume.”
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero expressed her gratitude to TECO for initiating the humanitarian mission.
“We know all too well that medical emergencies don't stop during global pandemic and this charter flight is helping people get the care they need, get the care they deserve and can help them to get better and live the better and live the more quality life,” the governor.
“When TECO reopened on Guam, Lt. Gov. Tenorio and I expressed our hope that the presence of this office can help facilitate even stronger ties between Taiwan and our region,” the governor said.
Leon Guerrero said the U.S. State Department’s recent move to lift self-imposed restrictions on contacts between U.S. officials and their Taiwanese counterparts “strengthens our partnership in peace and democracy.”
“Taiwan continues to be a leading democracy in a fragile region with a major economy and peace and a shining example for all of us of how a free and open society can effectively contain Covid 19,” the governor said.