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Amata emphasized fishing rights and oversight in NOAA and OIA hearings

Amata with John Brewer
Source: Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata’s Washington D.C. office press release

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata took part in relevant hearings and once again strongly emphasized to administration officials the facts about American Samoa’s local economy and the fishing issue, and the importance of the OIA role. She welcomed new OIA Director John Brewer with a meeting in her DC congressional office, having first met him last month at Flag Day celebrations in American Samoa.

“I appreciated this opportunity to welcome OIA Director John Brewer,” said Congresswoman Amata. “It was a first chance of many to discuss priorities, and I look forward to working with him and others at the Department of the Interior to always be moving forward and making a difference for our islands.”

Fishing and Economy: On Tuesday, Amata raised the fishing issue as she took part in an oversight hearing in the Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries (WWF) examining the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget request for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs).

In addition to thanking NOAA for sending the ship Rainier and the agency’s work for coral reefs and the marine environment, she submitted a letter from the governors of American Samoa, Guam and CNMI for the official record, and thanked NOAA for listening to her request by scheduling NOAA outreach meetings with the public in Guam, the CNMI, and in American Samoa so that all stakeholders can be heard on the fishing issue.

“I just hope the Administration truly listens to the needs that American Samoa has and the devastating effects that a total fishing ban would have on our cannery and the 75 percent of our exports that depend on it,” she said. “With growing Chinese influence in the Pacific region, the U.S. must remain focused on countering the PRC attempts to unduly disrupt U.S. territories and the Freely Associated States both economically as well as militarily.”

Emphasizing OIA Oversight: On Thursday, Amata took part in an oversight hearing in the Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs examining the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget request for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA).

Amata began her remarks with concern for the people of Guam and CNMI due to the devastating typhoon damage, expressed appreciation for the emergency declaration for them, and expressed support for the critical “missions of mercy” of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Insular Affairs.

“As Scripture says, ‘in his law the islands will put their hope’ (Isaiah 42),” she said. “And the people in American Samoa truly hope for oversight, accountability, and transparency from OIA. They want their federal dollars spent wisely, not wasted.”

She continued, “My territorial colleagues and I were successful in getting the Treasury Department to permit the use of hundreds of millions of dollars of ARP funds for much needed hospital and other infrastructure improvements.”

“Accordingly, it is essential OIA ensures proper use of these funds for the hospital, community college, our courts and our education department – as these are the key pillars of our society that Congress entrusted to OIA specifically to oversee,” she noted.

She offered congratulations on the successful signing of the recent compact renewals with the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, highlighting her support as cosponsor for a CIFA bill led by Rep. Ed Case (D-HI), and her concluding question was about the plan to fill the American Samoa desk officer position for OIA.

Foreign Affairs: This week, Amata took part as the Committee examined Pacific policy to build stronger Defense alliances among the AUKUS member nations and modernizing arms exports with testimony from Assistant Secretary of State Jessica Lewis and Assistant Secretary of Defense for for Strategies, Plans and Capabilities Mara Karlin. Amata focused on engagement with Pacific Island partners in diplomatic and Defense efforts.

She also attended a hearing of the Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations on an important topic – examining U.S. efforts to bring home abducted children. This hearing was led by Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ), a longtime champion in Congress of the most pressing global human rights issues.