ASG land in Tonga and Samoa still being evaluated
The American Samoa government’s real estate in Tonga and Samoa was one of the many issues that Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga brought up during a meeting two weeks ago with territorial leaders, which included Congressman Faleomavaega Eni and Interior Department official Nikolao Pula.
The issue of ASG land in those countries was brought up again during last week’s cabinet meeting, where Lolo told directors there were several items which he felt he needed to share with them to get their insight and to hear how they felt about them — one being the ASG land in Tonga and Samoa, and what should be done with that real estate.
The governor didn’t say what the new administration plans to do with the land.
During last year’s inter-Samoa talks, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Togiola agreed to provide for each other one acre of land to be used for setting up appropriate offices to facilitate economic integration. Samoa requested that the land in American Samoa be in Tafuna and Samoa government set up land for American Samoa in Apia’s suburb of Vailima.
Prior to leaving office before 12noon on Jan. 3 this year, Togiola’s office issued a news release saying that Togiola — in his final act as governor — signed the lease between Samoa and American Samoa, where a one acre property near Apia will be allocated to the Territory to set up an office.
In reciprocating, Togiola said American Samoa will provide land in Tafuna for Samoa to build its consular office, which is currently located in leased office space at the Methodist Church building in Fagatogo.
Samoa News asked Iulogologo as to when ASG plans to to set up an office in Apia and when Samoa will set up operations on its land in Tafuna. “The agreement is yet to be signed,” was Iulogologo’s reply yesterday.
He noted that the “issue was discussed” between Tuilaepa and Lolo when the Prime Minister was in the territory for the Sevens Rugby Tournament early this month.
However, Iulogologo said he was not privy to the discussions by the two leaders on this matter.
Tuilaepa said last year that having an American Samoa office in Apia makes it easy to address issues that arise in the event of an emergency situation. He says that having the Samoa Consulate Office in Pago Pago is doing the same for Samoa nationals in the territory.
Asked what the Lolo administration is going to do with the property in Tonga and whether ASG plans to sell this land, the governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira said the governor will be sending two people to Tonga to check out the land soon.
“Upon their return the appropriate course of action will be formulated to facilitate beneficial utilization of the land in Tonga,” he told Samoa News yesterday.
It was during the first administration of the late Governor AP Lutali that land was exchanged between the governments of Tonga and American Samoa. The exchange of land is pursuant to an April 1986 Memorandum of Understanding on Principles of Economic Cooperation between the two sides.
Tonga was given a parcel of ASG land in Tafuna that has been utilized as a market to sell their goods, but the ASG land in Tonga’s capital of Nukualofa has yet to be used.
In 2006, during his tenure as Senate President, Lolo dispatched Senate staffers to look at the property. Two years later, Lolo told Samoa News that the government should utilize this property which is located in the waterfront area of Nukualofa.
Prior to leaving office, former Gov. Togiola Tulafono had said that he was hoping to dispatch ASG officials to Tonga to conduct an assessment of the property.