American Samoa Governor, Congresswoman Meet To Discuss Federal Priorities

Lolo, Amata recently won reelection; prepare for new administration in U.S.

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 17, 2016) – Several issues affecting American Samoa on the federal level were discussed during a meeting last Thursday between Congresswoman Aumua Amata and Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who requested the meeting.

Others attending the meeting, before Aumua returned to Washington D.C. last week Friday, were Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Secretary of Samoan Affairs Mauga Tasi  Asuega, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale and Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie.

The governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira didn’t immediately respond to Samoa News email questions from Tuesday on the issues discussed at the meeting.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, the Congresswoman described the meeting as “very productive” and the discussions included topics on the canneries, federal cabotage waiver, and other issues currently affecting the territory.

The meeting also discussed some of the initiatives that ASG and the Congresswoman will be working together on in the upcoming Congress and this includes a repeal of a federal law that gives a sitting US President authority to designate ocean areas as national monuments without Congressional approval.

And this federal law “has caused such a hardship on the local fishing industry, which is the lifeblood of the American Samoa economy,” Aumua said yesterday from Washington D.C. in between Congressional meetings. “This repeal would be a huge win for American Samoa and our fishing community.”

(And with a new Congress next year controlled by the Republican Party as well as a GOP President-elect, there is hope from among those in the fishing industry across the US that a repeal would go through.)

“In summary, we are all in agreement — at the meeting — with what needs to be addressed, and the priorities for American Samoa,” she said, adding that she “looks forward to continuing their productive efforts together for the people of American Samoa.”

Regarding the cabotage waiver for an international carrier to operate Manu’a flights, the Congresswoman is committed to working on this issue to ensure a bill is passed during the current Congress. But if not, “I will immediately reintroduce it in the new 115th Congress and will not rest until it is a law,” she said.

The US Senate passed in late September this year the Omnibus Territories Act 2015, which includes a provision giving foreigner carriers up to 180-day waiver — instead of the current 30-day waiver — to operate American Samoa’s domestic flights. The Senate bill contains language in Aumua’s sponsored bill pending in the House.

In relation to the canneries, one of the important matters the Congresswoman and the governor were looking at is to get more federal credit initiatives to help keep Tri Marine International in American Samoa, according to an ASG official, familiar with topics that were discussed at the meeting.

Tri Marine had announced last month plans to indefinitely close down its Samoa Tuna Procesors Inc., cannery operations effective Dec. 11th and this has raised serious concerns from the Lolo Administration because of the loss of jobs for the local workforce, not only at Samoa Tuna Processors, but also at other local businesses that cater to the company. It remains unclear as to how many workers at the cannery will be affected by the shutdown, because a skeleton crew will continue to be employed at the facility.

Aumua returns to Capitol Hill at a busy time with leadership elections and organization for the upcoming Congress.

The Samoa News
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