State of the Territory report maintains Manu’a services improved in 2021
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Increased ocean transportation service for the Manu’a island group, improved internet connectivity, Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS) service for the islands, and a planned public park are some of the items the Lemanu-Talauega Administration cited in the Governor’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report distributed to lawmakers last week Monday, during a joint Fono session.
It’s now been one-year since the current Administration took office and the question circulating among residents of the island-group is — what has been done to help Manu’a in the last 12-months?
The governor’s report gave a few highlights of achievements and accomplishments, saying that Manu’a residents have been underserved with the lack of public facilities and other infrastructural mechanisms, unreliable and infrequent ocean and air transportation systems, healthcare services, educational services, business services and many other challenges.
It says that the Lemanu-Talauega Administration remains committed to serving the people of Manu’a by improving government services and investing in critical infrastructure projects.
“These projects are necessary and crucial to improving access to government services and the quality of life for our Manu’a residents,” the report says, noting that ASG’s presence on the Manu’a Islands has continued to expand which is “moving us closer to our goal of ensuring all government services are available on Manu’a.”
Samoa News points out that the previous Lolo Administration had started setting up in Manu’a government offices, including a Governor’s Office, to further improve ASG services to residents there.
Lemanu’s report listed projects, developments and accomplishments last year for the Administration.
Among the improvements is inter-island ferry service, with the report saying that the administration has continued to invest in the expansion of and building the efficiency of Manu'a’s air and ocean transportation infrastructure.
The year 2021 saw an increase in reliable and frequent ocean travel between Pago Pago and Manu’a via the MV Manu’atele, which has increased its service, maintaining regularly scheduled trips to the Manu’a Islands. The report also shows statistics of vessel and aircraft movements for the Manu’a islands for the 12 months last year.
For example there were 58 trips by the MV Manu’atele, 97 trips by the MV Segaula — the smaller ASG boat — and 53 by the MV Pago Pago — which carries cargo only.
For air service, there were 463 flights for the Fitiuta Airport and 74 for Ofu Airport — which has been undergoing runway renovation and reconstruction since April of last year.
Under a federal cabotage law exemption, Samoa Airways provides air service for Manu’a.
Samoa News notes that Port Administration Department released last November a schedule of trips by the MV Manu’atele for the first quarter of this year and noted that the schedule is subject to change without notification. For example, last minute changes are made due to weather conditions.
And although it’s not mentioned in the report, Port Administration launched last August its Port Electronic Ticketing System (PETS) project, funded with a grant from the US Department of Interior’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP).
According to the department, the PETS project is to streamline the ticketing and boarding process for ferry operations to the Manu'a islands. Early this month, the department said on its Facebook page that this initiative by director Christopher King, will be coming out soon this year.
A recent development has been providing the same services available in Tutuila islands to the Manu’a islands, according to the report, which noted that collaboration with the Governor’s Office Manu’a staff helped DBAS to assess and assist with the needs of the Manu’a residents.
DBAS visits to the Manu’a islands alleviate travel expenses for the Manu’a residents to Tutuila to process and receive loan disbursements. It says that a combined total of 79 Special Project Commercial Loans for fishermen and farmers were issued to the residents of Manu’a, totaling $152,000 and DBAS was able to help Manu’a homeowners by approving 25 Direct Repair loans, and the bank booked and disbursed a total of $305,911.
MANU’A ASTCA CONNECTION
With the partnership of Ericsson North America, the report says the American Samoa Telecommunications Authority successfully restored the vital Manu’a connection to Tutuila with an 84-mile microwave backhaul link. And the link is now providing a steady connectivity. One of the goals is to seek a viable alternative source for connectivity.
Other projects for the island group includes plans for the development of Sunrise Park, “Mutietele”, which the Administration said, is expected to be a major tourist sightseeing attraction in Fitiuta on Ta’u island.
Ongoing infrastructure projects include a passenger terminal at Fitiuta Airport; School Lunch Program building in Ta’u; Ofu Airport runway upgrade, Faleasao Port Building; and a new fire truck for Fitiuta Airport.