1 May 2013

Manu'a pleased about American Samoa shipping deal

6:04 pm on 1 May 2013

Manu'a residents are pleased they no longer have to pay to ship food and supplies to the outer island from Pago Pago.

The American Samoa governor made the announcement during a cabinet meeting last week.

This week, Lolo Matalasi Moliga is visiting Manu'a with a delegation on his first official trip to Manu'a since becoming governor.

Sara Vui-Talitu has been following the story.

The Governor, Lolo Matalasi Moliga, says changes must be made to assist Manu'a residents, who are heavily dependent on goods being shipped from Tutuila, which incurs high costs.

Manu'a residents have also faced ongoing transport woes, and recently had no airline or boat service after both were taken out of service due to repairs.

He says this is one way to assist.

He says government departments will still pay shipping costs to send their items to Manu'a, but for the general public, these fees will be waived.

"If they send materials for houses and for renovations, ship them free. Even at the bank, you make a loan for 10 thousand dollars, they will add another 3 thousand dollars for shipping, and yet they [Manu'a] are part of this territory. Manu'a will never be developed unless we do something different. So let's start with shipping those things free, starting on the next voyage."

Passengers travelling on the vessel are still required to pay the set fares

A Port Administration official, who doesn't want to be named, said the government vessel, the MV Sili's first sailing with free cargo for residents begins this week, and will be on offer fortnightly with each sailing until further notice.

Manu'a residents like shop owner , Ale Filoialii, welcomes the move by the Lolo administration, saying it will greatly help with increased shipping costs.

So we talk a lot of us businesses, we talk together and it really will help us with doing transportation.

Ale Filoialii says because the Governor grew up there, he understands their needs.

I know who he is and he knows who I am We were raised here on Manu'a together but he's a bit older than me.

But our correspondent, Monica Miller, says questions are already being asked about who is going to end up footing the bill for expenses like fuel.

Because when the budget was drawn up for Manu'a transportation this was not included in that and his announcement to the cabinet last week indeed came as a surprise. 10

She says there are also worries it may set a precedent.

Would the government pay for free transportation for school students and government employees who live on Aunu'u who have to travel to the main island to go to work and school?

But the Port Administration says the cost of the 'free shipping' will be borne by the Governor's administration.

The Governor's office issued a statement saying the Legislature has recently approved the Financial Year 2013 Supplemental Budget for all of MV Sili expenses, which will cover this, and funds will also be incorporated in the 2014 budget for the government vessel.