By Giff Johnson
Despite global disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic, ambassadors from Japan and Taiwan provided non-coronavirus related aid to the Marshall Islands in ceremonies in Majuro this past week.
Meanwhile, the United States Interior Department announced that the coronavirus stimulus package signed into law yesterday by President Donald Trump included at least $US55 million for US-affiliated islands in the Pacific for "economic and pandemic" aid.
In addition, funds to aid governments, businesses, school systems, workers, and families included 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 $US7.4 million in project aid.
One grant of $3.3 million is to purchase diesel fuel for power utility companies.
The second grant of $4.1 million will fund the construction of a training and operation center for the 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.
Mr Nemra expressed his gratitude and said the contribution of funding for diesel fuel came at a good time considering the current coronavirus outbreak. He said it would assist communities in the outer islands.
At a separate ceremony in Majuro earlier in the week, the 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 had provided hundreds of solar streetlights and solar lighting equipment for community buildings that had 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 that he was always touched when visiting outer islands to see streetlights adorned with Taiwan and Marshall Islands flags providing light for locals.
In announcing the new US government Covid-19 funding package, US Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Douglas Domenech said the islands were especially vulnerable with healthcare systems that could be overwhelmed quickly with limited 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."