Taiwan tops Japan quake donors

On May 5, President Ma Ying-jeou offered his sympathies to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami survivors while vice speaker of the lower house of Japan’s Diet, Eto Seishiro, visited Taiwan.  Seishiro, who also serves as the vice chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, is the first vice speaker of the lower house to visit Taiwan since the two countries severed diplomatic ties in 1972, according to the Central News Agency report.

On the day the earthquake struck Japan, President Ma asked Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry to express his condolences to the Japanese government and provide disaster relief aid of NT$100 million (US$3.3 million). He told Seishiro that Taiwan has raised nearly NT$5.7 billion (US$190 million) for the reconstruction of Japan, which probably is the largest in Taiwan’s foreign aid history.

President Ma also said that Taiwanese people appreciate the Japanese for their past assistance, including dispatching rescue teams, providing prefabricated houses and their donations after the 1999 earthquake and after Typhoon Morakot two years ago.

In mid April, Japan’s Shukan Shincho carried a report about President Ma’s attendance at an event benefitting Japanese earthquake victims. The weekly paper said that the Japanese people were surprised to learn that Taiwan ranked top in earthquake donations, and appreciated the gesture of true friends.

The paper said 130 countries have provided assistance and donated to Japan after the March 11 earthquake, including Afghanistan (US$1 million donation) and many less developed African countries. The most surprising donation to the Japanese people remains the amount of aid provided by Taiwan, which not only dispatched rescue teams and materials, but also donated US$135 million (as of April 1) through the Taiwan Red Cross. The donations coming from Taiwan’s 23 million citizens even surpassed that of the United States.

The Central News Agency reported that the memorial park in honor of the Japanese hydraulic engineer Hatta Yoichi (1886-1942) was inaugurated in Tainan, southern Taiwan on May 8. President Ma and former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori both attended the ceremony.

Hatta was the major designer of the island’s Chianan Canal Project and was involved with its construction from 1920-30 (including Wusantou Reservoir in Tainan) during the Japanese colonial period. The Chianan Canal was the largest water conservancy facility not only in Taiwan during the Japanese rule, but in Asia as well. Also participating in a number of water conservation projects in Taipei and Kaohsiung, Hatta was known for his life-long contributions to Taiwan. He was killed when the ship he was on was sunk by a US submarine while he was on his way back to Japan in 1942.

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