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MORE THAN 40,000 CRUISE SHIP VISITORS EXPECTED IN 2012

American Samoa's tourism industry can expect a bumper year in 2012 with cruise ships scheduled to call into the Port of Pago Pago, bringing more than 40,000 visitors.

American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau director David Vaeafe said 2012 will have the highest number of recorded cruise ships to visit the Territory in one year, 19 ships bringing some 29,000 passengers and about 13,000 crew on ‘day visits’ to Pago Pago.

In February alone, 6 ships are expected over a two week period, including the  Cunard Cruise line's Queen Elizabeth 2.

The largest cruise ship expected next year will be the Costa Deliziosa carrying 2862 passengers and 912 crew. The smallest cruise ship will be the Seabourn Odyssey carrying 450 passengers and 350 crew.

Vaeafe told Samoa News the agency’s goal is to have at least 20 cruise ships a year, “because our current resources and market can sustain and manage this amount of cruise ships”.

Earlier this month, Gov. Togiola Tulafono told business officials this is one tourism attraction “we don’t have to spent a lot of money on for infrastructure, but it can bring people as long as we continue to bring ships in every month — and if we can help it, we can bring one in every week.”

The last cruise ship to call into Pago Pago this year, the Ocean Princess, arrived Monday morning with more than 1,100 passengers and crew, departing that same afternoon.

SAMOA TO JOIN WTO AFTER ENDING BAN ON TURKEY TAILS

Samoa's endorsement to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) is expected on Sunday, which along with Montenegro and Russia brings the total number of WTO member states to 157.

In November, Bloomberg press reported the WTO "welcomed the nation, with a population of about 193,000, once Samoa agreed to end its ban on the fatty poultry scraps (turkey tails) and impose import tariffs instead." The article was titled, 'Stopping turkey tails at the border pits trade against health' .

They quote Palanitina Tupuimatagi Toelupe, Samoa’s director general of health saying, “These are the contradictions we have to face--where health is compromised for the sake of trade and development.”

The WTO endorsement has met with some opposition in Samoa, led by the Ole Siosiomaga Society (OLSSI). OLSSI said in a letter to the government, a number of organizations have voiced objections over the last few years on the lack of broad national consultation about what the free trade agreement means for Samoa.

Samoan negotiators defend ending the ban on the fatty poultry scraps as the only way to enjoy the increased trade and lowered costs of imports that WTO membership confers. “It filters down to the normal customer who will now have access to a wider variety of goods,” Namulauulu Sami Leota, president of the Chamber of Commerce, told the Samoa Observer newspaper.

US turkey farmers call ending the ban good news, as they will regain a market for the low-value trimmings that often end up in pet food.

“We feel it’s the consumers’ right to determine what foods they wish to consume, not the government’s,” said James H. Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

For Samoa, one of the world’s most obese nations, the deal is a mixed blessing, Businessweek reported in its Nov. 28 edition.

FALEOMAVAEGA SETS HEARINGS FOR FAGATELE AND US NATIONAL PROPOSALS

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni confirmed two consecutive dates next month to afford the public an opportunity to discuss and submit comments on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposal to expand the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary and his two proposed legislation drafts allowing for (1) US Nationals to apply directly to the federal government for US citizenship and (2) a certain category of foreigners, residing in American Samoa, US National status.

“I have received many emails and telephone calls from people in American Samoa on these issues and I want to provide a forum for the public to present their views on them,” said Faleomavaega.

He has invited Fono leaders or their designees to be part of the public hearings and any person or organization is invited to testify. He recommends that all who wish to testify at the hearings also provide written statements for the record.

Both hearings will be held at the Fono guest fale starting at 4p.m. on January 11 and 12.

The public forum on the NOAA proposal to expand the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary to include five more sites is to be held Jan. 11.

Faleomavaega has invited Gene Brighouse, Superintendent of the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary; Lelei Peau, Commerce Department deputy director; and Dean Hudson, Chairman of the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, to share with the public the NOAA proposal, the regulatory changes in these areas, and the proposed sanctuary name change.

The second forum, set for Jan. 12, will focus on the Congressman’s two proposed legislation drafts. One proposal would allow a certain category of foreigners living legally in American Samoa for a certain number of years to be US Nationals and the other would allow US Nationals living in American Samoa to apply directly to the federal government for US citizenship from the territory, without having to establish residency in the US as is now the requirement.

DAVID WAGNER CASE CITED IN FEDERAL DOJ REPORT

The US Justice Department Criminal Division Public Integrity Section submitted its report to the US Congress last week, citing the USDOJ case against David Wagner, former acting executive director of U’una’i Legal Services Corporation (ULSC) in American Samoa as one of the corruption cases tried in 2010.

The required report states briefly that Wagner pled guilty on Mar. 11, 2010 to a one-count criminal information charging him with the theft of federal grant funds of over $30,000 from the federally funded non profit ULSC organization.

During this period, ULSC was the only nonprofit organization in American Samoa dedicated to providing free legal services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual abuse, the report says.

In pleading guilty, Wagner admitted that from approximately November 2005 through December 2006 he stole $31,292 in federal grant funds, the report notes.



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