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AM. SAMOA’S MANU’A SEEKS USE OF GOVERNMENT BOAT Lacking air, sea transport, islanders ask for help

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, April 19, 2010) - A handful of Manu΄a residents is hoping that the Samoa government will take to heart their suffering with the lack of ocean and air transportation and use its cruise ship vessel to "ease our suffering" by providing an emergency sail or even regular sails.

There was, however, some relief for Manu΄a, following the arrival Saturday morning of a charter of the MV Fotu-o-Samoa, reportedly put together by the Department of Education and the American Samoa Power Authority.

A delegation from the Samoa government was in Pago Pago over the weekend to meet with ASG officials to discuss possible ways for the Samoa government’s MV Lady Filifilia "to conduct commercial voyages and other shipping services between Tutuila and Manu΄a,” according to a media statement from the Samoa government last Thursday night.

The outcome of the meeting, held from Apr. 16-18, was not immediately known.

The Lady Filifilia (currently named Talofa Cruises) made its first journey to Pago Pago on Friday afternoon bringing the Samoa government delegation, led by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, for the Flag Day ceremony.

The cruise vessel sailed out of Samoa at the newly opened Aleipata Wharf and the trip was only about two and half hours, which later docked at the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resource dock-area.

Three residents at Faleasao village on Ta΄u Island saw the vessel on KVZK-TV’s Flag Day coverage, which prompted their calls to Samoa News to voice their hope that Tuilaepa would consider an emergency sail for the island group.

“There are a lot of passengers in Manu΄a who want to travel to Tutuila for various reasons, but are unable to do so,” said Faleasao resident Fuiono T. Petelo in a telephone interview from Manu΄a. “Might as well ask Tuilaepa for an emergency sail to Manu΄a.”

The other two callers from Faleasao didn’t want to be identified by name, but the pair said "something has to be done especially with no air service and no MV Sili."

“It’s shocking to see on TV that the Governor used the Fo΄isia to sail around the harbor in Tutuila to watch the fautasi race, but the Fo΄isia was for Manu΄a and we have no service,” the callers said.

This statement was echoed by Ta΄u resident Ale Filoiali΄i, who was also able to pick up KVZK-TV’s broadcast. “While we are suffering without air and ocean service, the Governor is using the Fo΄isia for the Flag Day fautasi race,” said Filoiali΄i in a telephone interview from Ta΄u.

“The government keeps telling us that the Fo΄isia is down for repairs but there it is— used for the Governor and others to watch the race. What a luxury for them while we are suffering in Manu΄a.”

Samoa News reported the Fo’isia was down due to a mechanical problem, which has since been repaired. The vessel was used by Gov. Togiola Tulafono on Friday to travel to the starting area of the fautasi heats, located outside the harbor. However, the heats were eventually cancelled due to rough seas.

A Port Administration official said on Saturday that bad weather in the last couple of days made it impossible for the Fo΄isia to sail safely to and from Manu΄a. The official, who asked not be identified when contacted for information, said it has to be good weather in order for the Fo΄isia to sail.

When told about the meeting of ASG and Samoa government officials regarding possible use of the Lady Filifilia for Manu’a service, Filoiali΄i says “well that is not a bad idea, especially now when Manu΄a is faced with the lack of air and ocean transport.”Fuiono added, “Any service is better than nothing and the [cruise] vessel from Samoa looks great. Manu΄a’s priority now is to get some sort of transport service."

In its press statement, the Samoa government says that, "American Samoa’s dependency on our boats has prompted" the Samoa Shipping Corporation (SSC) Board of Directors "to expand its services to the Tutuila and Manu΄a route.”

SSC, which oversees all Samoa government vessels, is also focusing on establishing a new office in American Samoa, and for one of its ships to be registered and based in the territory to serve the Tutuila and Manu΄a Islands, it says.

The Samoa delegation attending the meeting includes Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure Tuisugaletaua A. Sofara and the SSC chief executive officer Papali΄i Willie Nansen.

Filoiali΄i and Fuiono both confirmed that a Fotu-o-Samoa charter arrived Saturday morning bringing "much relief" with supplies, including gasoline and other goods.

Fuiono said the charter was by DOE and ASPA and he along with other Faleasao residents are "very thankful" to leaders of the two agencies for allowing the charter to bring personal and business supplies.

The charter also brought gasoline for private vehicles and diesel fuel for the school buses, said Filoiali΄i, who added that “this is at least a relief for us in Manu΄a for the time being.”

Filoiali’i said the DOE charter brought supplies for the school lunch program, which had ran out of food.

Fuiono, who is a government employee, said the charter also brought ASG payroll checks for “us who reside in Manu΄a since there is no air service.”

When the Fotu-o-Samoa returned to Tutuila on Saturday afternoon, it was able to carry 12 passengers— six each from Ta΄u and Ofu islands, said Fuiono and Filoiali΄i.

The vessel is only allowed to take 12 passengers, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Fuiono and Filoiali΄i are also thankful to Fletcher Construction, the contractor for the fire station at the Fitiuta Airport, for uplifting some private supplies during the Fletcher charter of the Fotu-o-Samoa on Wednesday night.

"Here is a private company, paying for the charter, but are concerned enough for the well-being of Manu΄a residents that they offered help for us,” said Fuiono, who is native of Savai’i but has been residing, legally, in the territory for many years.

“When I grew up in Savai΄i I heard so much about the many riches and better life offered by Tutuila and Manu΄a,” said Fuiono. “But right now, Upolu and Savai΄i has better living than Manu΄a.”

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