Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Nations lend voice to WHA bid

HELPING HANDS Medical associations and parliaments around the world gave their support to Taiwan ahead of the World Health Assembly in Geneva tomorrow

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Parliamentarians from the Philip-pines, Chili and Canada have joined several international medical associations to voice their support for Taiwan's bid to join the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer before the meeting starts tomorrow.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its gratitude for the Senate and House of Representatives in the Philippines after a resolution supportive of Taipei's bid to join the WHA was passed in Manila earlier this week.

A similar resolution backing Taiwan's bid to join the WHA, the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), also sailed through the Chilian parliament earlier this week, the ministry said.

Some 156 Canadian Members of Parliament endorsed a petition on Friday urging the Canadian government to back Taiwan's efforts to join the WHA, according to a Central News Agency report from Ottawa.

John McKay, President of the Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, launched the petition in Ottawa.

McKay said Canada's support for Taiwan's WHO bid is also to ensure the health and safety of the Canadian people since Canada receives more than 150,000 tourists from Taiwan every year.

But a motion supporting Taiwan's bid was killed by the Canadian parliament on May 5th, a pertinent meeting minute showed.

In March, 55 signatures from members of the British House of Commons were collected in supportive of Taiwan's WHO bid, while the Czech parliament saw a similar move in April, the ministry said.

Support for Taiwan's WHO bid has also been seen in the US Senate and House of Representatives, along with parliaments in Taiwan's diplomatic-ally countries such as Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Costa Rica, the ministry said.

The World Medical Association and the International Society of Surgery have also voiced their support for Taiwan's bid, with the former passing a resolution on Friday to call for an end to Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO.

Meanwhile, former US official Alan Romberg said it's time to grant Taiwan's application for observership at the WHA in light of the SARS crisis.

"Agreeing to Taiwan's WHO observer status while making clear it was in no way a first step toward `membership' would represent a sensible shift for Beijing from a blatantly political approach to a humanitarian one," Romberg wrote in an article entitled Taiwan and WHO: Time to Move On on the Pacific Forum CSIS newsletter.

"This would not be easy, since China avoids doing anything beneficial to Taiwan's current president, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), whom it deeply mistrusts. But it would gain respect for China as a reasonable adjustment to meet the needs of the people in Taiwan rather than as a favor for Chen," wrote Romberg.

Romberg, senior associate and director of the China Program at The Henry L. Stimson Center, also urged the WHO to stop refusing to deal regularly with Taiwan because it's not part of the organization, not to mention listing Taiwan as the "Taiwan Province" under "China."

"If WHO is to serve world health interests rather than being a political pawn, it should be smart -- and flexible -- enough to find ways to cease these counter-productive practices to deal effectively with one of the areas most seriously impacted by SARS," the former Principal Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the US State Department said.

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