StarKist officials assured of local efforts to improve operating environment for canneries
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has shared with top officials of StarKist Co., the efforts of the American Samoa government to improve the operating environment for the canneries in the territory, and the governor plans to call a meeting with local boat owners to discuss issues of concern to the fishing industry.
Lolo met yesterday with Jaechul Kim, chairman of the South Korean based Dongwon Industries, owner of StarKist Co., along with StarKist president and CEO, Sam Hwi Lee and members of the StarKist management team on island to participating in tomorrow’s StarKist Samoa 50th anniversary and attending meetings with government and business officials.
At the outset of the meeting the governor congratulated and expressed the appreciation of the government and people of American Samoa to StarKist for their 50 years of service to the Territory, said Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, the governor’s executive assistant. The Governor also wished StarKist well and continued profitability for the next 50 years.
Lolo then informed Mr. Kim about American Samoa's ongoing initiatives to improve the operating environment for the canneries. “These initiatives include the upgrade of the ASG Shipyard to entice fishing vessels to home port in American Samoa,” he said and noted that the governor also informed Mr. Kim of his planned site visit next week to the shipyard.
(The governor will be accompanied to the site visit by four cabinet directors and a representative of the U.S. Coast Guard in the territory.)
Another initiative is the “assessment of current diesel fuel cost to fishing vessels to improve our economic advantage and again incentivize fishing vessels to off-load catches at our canneries,” said Iulogologo.
Moreover, the governor revealed to Mr. Kim that he had issued a mandate to the American Samoa Power Authority board of directors and chief executive officer, Utu Abe Malae “to take steps to reduce the cost of electricity and other utilities due to its negative pervasive impact on business development and the people of American Samoa.”
He also informed Mr. Kim that he is calling a meeting with all the fishing vessel owners so he can hear directly from them their concerns and how government can help resolve these operating obstacles.
Finally, Mr. Kim was also informed that the governor was already collaborating with Congressman Faleomavaega Eni “to address the minimum wage issue now and not wait until the moratorium ends in 2015” which is when the next minimum wage hike is set to increase, said Iulogologo.
Lolo has tasked the Department of Commerce “to collect and synthesize requisite economic statistics to justify our position to rescind the application of the federal minimum wage law on American Samoa to assist us with the development of [our] economy,” he pointed out.
In return, Mr. Kim expressed his appreciation to the governor “for his astuteness in recognizing all of the key factors which affect StarKist's operation and continued presence in American Samoa,” he said.
“Mr. Kim was particularly pleased that the governor is taking a progressive approach to improve the Shipyard, including all of the initiatives that are are being pursued. Mr Kim informed the governor that StarKist would like to expand its operation but it needs land to accommodate its expansion plans,” he said and noted that Mr. Kim extended his appreciation to the governor for making time to meet with him and his delegation.
StarKist’s corporate office in Pittsburgh didn’t immediately reply to Samoa News request for comments on the issues the company’s top officials planned to discuss with territorial leaders.
Meanwhile, the government is hosting two events later this afternoon for StarKist officials in honor of its 50th anniversary. The first is slated to started around 6p.m. with the traditional welcoming ava ceremony at the Fale Samoa at Utulei Beach followed by dinner at the Governor Rex Lee Auditorium.
Tomorrow starting around 9a.m. is the official StarKist Samoa 50th Anniversary ceremony at Veterans Memorial Stadium, which will include siva and pese by cannery workers, and will be televised live on KVZK-TV.
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