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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Aug. 29) - The U.S. Department of Transportation is inviting the public to submit comments on Hawaiian Airlines' petition for a declaratory order regarding Governor Togiola's July 26 executive order barring the airline from operating the Pago Pago Honolulu route, providing that the governor finds another airline to supply this service.

Hawaiian filed the petition August 10 asking for Department of Transportation to rule as to whether or not the executive order is enforceable.

Michael W. Reynolds, Department of Transportation's acting assistant secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, said in Department of Transportation documents released yesterday that no one has answered Hawaiian's petition.

"We do not wish to rule on the petition for a declaratory order without obtaining the views of American Samoa," said Reynolds, who noted that Hawaiian has requested that the territorial government be given the opportunity to participate in this matter.

Comments should address the issues raised in Hawaiian's petition and the governor's response to the FAA official's letter as well as any other relevant matters of concern to the commenter, Reynolds said.

FAA's Ronnie Simpson informed the American Samoa Government in an August 2 letter that the Government would be in violation of federal laws if the order is implemented. He also warned that failure to comply with those obligations could jeopardize the American Samoa Government's eligibility for federal financial assistance in the future.

Hawaiian argues in particular that a federal statute [49 U.S.C 41713] bars American Samoa and all other states and territories from regulating the routes, rates and services of interstate airlines and that American Samoa therefore may not stop Hawaiian from serving Pago Pago.

The governor contends that the proposed action is within American Samoa's customs and border control authority, period.

To ensure that American Samoa and other interested persons have an adequate opportunity to prepare and submit comments, Department of Transportation said it will allow them to file their comments 14 days after the date of publication of this notice in the Federal Registry. Interested parties, including Hawaiian, may then file replies to the comments 21 days after the date of publication in the Federal Registry.

As of yesterday the Department of Transportation notice seeking comments was yet to be published on the Federal Registry.

Docket number for this case is OST-2006-25612. To comment by mail, send to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street SW., Washington D.C. 20590-0001.

August 30, 2006

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com

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