Lolo pledges full govt support of businesses like Starkist
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga pledged full government support to help local businesses like StarKist Samoa succeed in American Samoa, while Congressman Faleomavaega Eni called on the ASG to work closely with the StarKist management team to ensure American Samoa remains competitive in the growing global canned tuna industry.
The two leaders were among the six speakers at last Saturday’s 50th Anniversary celebration for Starkist Samoa at the Veterans Memorial Stadium where entertainment was provided by the various divisions of the cannery amid heavy rainfall.
The green grassy field of the stadium turned into pools of water that day as Starkist Samoa employees took center stage for their siva and pese performances.
During a government hosted dinner the night before, StarKist officials announced that “rain or not” the 50th Anniversary celebration will go on.
And it did.
As the rain continued to pour, the employees didn't seem to mind, performing their best, showing their happiness and joyous spirit as they acted out impromptu dances while sliding across the field through large pools of water — all of which brought laughter to the crowd.
One group even had sunglasses on to match their outfits as they performed a popular song that brought delight to the crowd.
“Rain or shine, we will continue with the celebration," said master of ceremony Taeoafua Dr. Meki Solomona as the next group made their way to the field. At that time, the Fish Coordination group made their way on to the field as ankle-high pools of water continued to form in the area close to the grandstand.
The all male Engineering Division followed up with their performance, which included a lot of hip swinging moves that featured bared-chested performers sporting very short sarongs (lavalava). One of their dances featured the popular tune, “Who let the Dogs Out” which resulted in plenty of laughter from the crowd.
StarKist Samoa's official mascot Charlie the Tuna was all over the field that day, joining in on the dances.
Overall, StarKist workers produced outstanding performances despite the rain and there was no holding back. The crowd, including everyone who watched the celebration live on KVZK-TV, was very delighted and happy with the entertainment.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, during his speech, made reference to the comment he made the night before during an ASG hosted dinner for StarKist's anniversary. Lolo told the audience Friday night at the Governor Rex Lee Auditorium that “StarKist to American Samoa is not just a business, it’s family to both American Samoa and Samoa.”
He said both American Samoa and Samoa should be grateful and thankful to God for “giving us StarKist,” a company that has helped the two Samoas over the years.
(Log on to samoanews.com for full details of Friday’s dinner event.)
A majority of the StarKist Samoa workforce over the last 50-years have been from neighboring Samoa. Prior to closing its operations in the territory, Chicken of the Sea also employed a high number of people from Samoa.
During Saturday’s celebration, Lolo said the last 50 years was filled with challenges for the company, adding the impact of the world’s global economic downturn and other economic hardships will bear difficulties on StarKist as well as all of the businesses in the territory.
“But I pledge the government will do everything in its power to make sure that we provide an environment where our businesses will grow, and nurture them to grow and make money and have a successful future that will serve the people of American Samoa,” Lolo said.
He added that in any successful business and any successful organization, leadership contributes to the success but it is the employees that “fundamentally determine the great success in every business”.
To all the employees of Starkist Samoa, he said, “you have accomplished that feat today. And I take my hat off to all of you, for your dedication, your commitment and your hard work. Today is the beginning of your journey towards the next 50 years of successful operation in American Samoa and we pray to God to provide an environment, where we can nurture and help businesses to become successful.”
At the outset of his remarks, Faleomavaega led the crowd with the traditional Samoan song, “Ua fa’afetai” dedicated to Jae Chul Kim, owner and chairman of the South Korea based Dongwon Industries, owner of StarKist Co. and StarKist Samoa.
Faleomavaega met last month in Seoul with South Korea’s newly elected president. The Congressman said he has developed a “tremendous love and affection” for the people of Korea and during Saturday's event, he sang a Korean song dedicated to Kim and all the members of the local Korean community.
Mr. Kim and other members of the Starkist board from Korea joined in singing the song from the grandstand.
Afterwards, Faleomavaega thanked the owner and chair of Dongwon for investing in American Samoa, saying that Mr. Kim has “compassion for our Samoan people.” He said he looks forward to working with Mr. Kim and Lolo “in ensuring that StarKist continues to operate in American Samoa for another 50 years.”
According to the Congressman, the arrival of StarKist Samoa in the territory 50 years ago provided many jobs “for our Samoan people and American Samoa became one of the leading producers of canned tuna in the world.”
He estimates that canneries have exported from the territory tens of billions of dollars worth of canned tuna to the U.S. and around 80% of the local economy is directly or indirectly dependent on this industry.
“...all of this economic success was made possible because of the hard work of our Samoan workers. In many ways the success of the U.S. tuna industry in American Samoa was built on the backs of Samoan women who worked hard and tirelessly for their children and families,” he said to an applause from the crowd.
“I see their untiring dedication as they stand in their white uniforms waiting on the side of the road late at night or early mornings to make it to work for their early shifts, where they stand for hours and hours cleaning and cutting fish,” Faleomavaega said.
The Congressman told the audience it is now a matter of fact that the tuna industry in American Samoa was not destined to last forever. “Increased demand in the U.S. market have attracted foreign competition and canneries are changing their production process to lower costs,” he noted.
He says times have changed since StarKist first opened in 1963, and added American Samoa is now competing in the global tuna market with canneries in Thailand, the European Union countries, Ecuador, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“While we used to hold the title of the world’s largest tuna producer, we have now dropped to sixth place,” behind Thailand, Ecuador, the Philippines, Spain and Mexico, he said and pointed out that “more countries are boosting their production”.
In a recent study, Faleomavaega said, Thailand alone produces 736,000 metric tons of canned tuna per year, or 24% of the global production, while American Samoa was shown to produce only 132,000 metric tons or 4%.
“I don’t want to give you [negative] message, but for the future, this is all the more [reason] for our Fono, our governor and our American Samoa government to work closely with Mr. Kim and the StarKist management team — to make sure that we become competitive in this global market,” he concluded.
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