On the afternoon of June 26 (Sunday local time) President Tsai Ing-wen proceeded to the Cocoli Locks, the new Pacific-facing locks of the Panama Canal to attend the inauguration ceremony for the Panama Canal Expansion.
The inauguration ceremony began at 4:30 p.m. President Tsai, accompanied to the event by National Security Council Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Minister of Foreign Affairs David T. Lee (李大維), and ROC Ambassador to Panama Jose Maria Liu (劉德立), was escorted on stage by Panamanian protocol officials to the area reserved for heads of state. After the master of ceremonies announced the official start of the ceremony, Panama's national anthem was performed. A religious ceremony seeking blessings was then conducted by representatives of the Jewish, Islamic, Eastern Orthodox, and Catholic faiths, followed by a moment of silence in honor of those who lost their lives working on the Panama Canal Expansion. After remarks by Panama's Minister of Canal Affairs Robert R. Roy and President Juan Carlos Varela, a stately atmosphere prevailed as the Cocoli Locks were officially opened.
President Tsai interacted and exchanged pleasantries with numerous delegation leaders including Panama President Varela and Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, Paraguay President Horacio Cartes, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina, Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez, El Salvador Vice President Oscar Samuel Ortiz Ascencio, former King of Spain Juan Carlos, Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Ms. Jill Biden (wife of US Vice President Joe Biden), Chile President Michelle Bachelet, Guatemala Vice President Jafeth Cabrera Franco, Argentina Vice President Marta Gabriela Michetti, Ecuador Vice President Jorge Glas, Korea Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kang Hoin, Lord Mayor of the City of London The Lord Mountevans, Head of the Japanese Delegation Seishiro Eto (House of Representatives Member and Vice Chairman of the Japan-ROC Diet Members' Consultative Council), and Philippines Secretary of Transportation and Communications Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya.
President Tsai was to leave Panama the following day (June 27) and proceed to Paraguay, and Paraguay President Cartes took the opportunity to welcome her and say that he is looking forward to her visit.
The Panama Canal has been operating successfully since it was first opened. But due to ever-rising capacity demand, in 2006 Panama conducted a referendum on expanding the canal that garnered the support of a majority of its people, passing by a wide margin. Construction began in 2007 and was completed this year. In March of this year, Panama President Varela sent President Tsai a formal invitation requesting her presence at the inauguration ceremony for the Panama Canal Expansion. To demonstrate the importance that Taiwan places on international shipping, and to continue enhancing friendly diplomatic relations with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Taiwan delegation led by President Tsai touched down in Panama on June 25 (local time) and attended the ceremony.
That evening, President Tsai attended a celebratory dinner for delegation heads representing each country hosted by Panama President Varela.