ATOA O SAMOA DAY 2:4th Atoa o Samoa executive emeting officially opens
The Fourth Atoa o Samoa Executive Meeting commenced on October 11, 2023 (Apia Standard Date and Time) with its official opening ceremony at the Taumeasina Island Resort, marking a significant step in strengthening the bonds between American Samoa and Samoa, and to explore avenues to foster development that will serve the collective welfare of the Samoan populace.
Prime Minister Naomi Fiame Mata’afa warmly welcomed the Co-chair of Atoa o Samoa, Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga, and the American Samoa delegation during her opening remarks. Governor Lemanu took a moment to express his gratitude towards Prime Minister Fiame for her kind gesture during the Pacific Island Leaders Summit held in Washington D.C. in September.
He stated, "It was a meeting of Pacific Nation Leaders, hosted by the United States President; Territorial leaders do not have a voice in these settings, however, I express my appreciation to Prime Minister Fiame for acknowledging my presence at the Summit." Following the opening ceremony, the meeting convened with the American Samoa Government presenting an update on the progress made towards the anticipated outcomes discussed during the 3rd Atoa o Samoa meeting held in April of this year.
Key achievements that American Samoa reported on includes:
1. Trade: Director Petti Matila of the Department of Commerce mentioned the significant progress that has been made in enhancing economic ties between American Samoa and Samoa. Trade shows to exhibit locally made products, benefits for small private businesses, American
2. Samoa products to enter US markets easily, and potential private sector partnerships. Director Petti also acknowledged the invitation from Samoa for tourism exchange, and mentioned that the American Samoa’s Visitors Bureau Director was able to attend the New Zealand and Australia Roadshows.
3. Labor Mobility, Immigration, and Border Security: Attorney General Fainuulelei Falefatu Alailima-Utu reported that the Guest Workers Program is successfully operating, currently employing 1,355 workers, and StarKist Samoa has requested for more. AG Fainuulelei also reports that 400 Samoa citizens are approved monthly under the Entry Permit Waiver Program. Treasurer Malemo Tausaga mentioned progresses towards Border Security matters are being made in programs such as the K9 handler training program and collaborations with Samoa regarding the ASYCUDA.
4. Financial Services: Treasurer Malemo presented a remittance report regarding transactions between American Samoa and Samoa, and gladly reported a significant increase since the Pandemic years.
5. Telecommunications: CEO Chuck Leota reports that courses for National University of Samoa (NUS) Certification have been successfully implemented for engineering and ASTCA staff. Progress towards establishing connection for Hawaiki redundancy and bandwidth capacity for Samoa continue.
6. Education, Sports, and Culture: Director Talauega Samasoni Asaeli of the Department of Education discussed that communications with NUS leaders for teacher development courses in specific areas have begun. He also mentioned that plans are made to exchange athletic training on Rugby and American Football among other sports.
7. Environment & Climate Change: The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Director Faamao Asalele Jr. gladly reports that 3 officers from the Fire and Emergency Services Authority successfully completed training in American Samoa conducted by the US-EPA. US-EPA also had the opportunity to visit the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS). Director Faamao also acknowledged the 2nd Disaster Resilient Summit in American Samoa hosted by the Office of Disaster Assistance and Petroleum Management Director Lisa Tuato’o, that featured an esteemed keynote speaker from Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Minister Toeulusulusulu Cedric Schuster.
8. Transportation & Infrastructure: Port Administration Director Falenaoti Loi-On Fruean and Public Works Director Faleosina Voigt updated that plans are in place for visitations from Samoa Airport Authorities, and presented training opportunities for Airport Firefighters from Samoa.
9. Agriculture & Fisheries: Director Taotasi Archie Soliai announced that Samoa's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) has generously gifted around 500 juvenile giant clams (Tridacna derasa) to American Samoa, with plans in motion for their transportation and the establishment of essential protocols. Additionally, Director Solia T. Mutini expressed gratitude for the recent lifting of bans on cut flowers, plants, and biosecurity concerning livestock meat, underscoring the positive developments in cross-border agricultural and biosecurity cooperation.
10. Health: Dr. Tile Ah Leong-Lui provided a comprehensive overview of various critical aspects. These included the Health Information Exchange, which facilitates the seamless sharing of health-related information. Initiatives related to health prevention and collaboration, emphasizing the importance of proactive measures in safeguarding public well-being. The meeting also featured discussions on a Physician and Nurse Exchange Program, aimed at fostering professional exchange and knowledge sharing within the healthcare sector. Other notable mentions were non-communicable disease prevention and surveillance, underscoring the significance of early detection and monitoring and effective management.
The signing of the new outcomes document will be signed after scheduled site visits in Savaii on October 12, 2023.
Photo Credit: ASG