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Governor clarifies enforcement issue pertaining to banned soaps, detergents

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has clarified one issue pertaining to the prohibition of imported soaps and detergents containing phosphates after new concerns surfaced from the private sector as the enforcement of the regulation was implemented.

Some two weeks ago, American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency issued a news release reminding the community — especially business establishments and ocean and air freight forwarders — on the prohibition of importing soaps and detergents containing phosphates into the Territory, based on an Aug. 21 executive order issued by the governor, and the order was effective that same date. .

Then two weekends ago, the governor on his radio program spoke about the ban, which has gone into effect. He also called on the private sector to work with the government in resolving this important environmental issue dealing with phosphates that affects the water supply.

But this past Saturday on his radio program, Togiola said that the enforcement of the ban has resulted in new concerns from the private sector and he wanted to clarify certain issues.

He said the problem is that when the executive order was issued and mentioned on his radio program two weekends ago, enforcement was implemented and included products that were either already on island or enroute to the territory.

Togiola clarified that all products already on island or is enroute to the territory when the order was issued are exempted and this was relayed to the local enforcement agencies, which are Customs and ASEPA according to the executive order.

He says merchants need to provide proof, that the products were already on the vessel  to Pago Pago or the products already on island  when the order was issued. At the same time, the governor cautioned not to use this exemption as a way for merchants to knowingly change the shipping manifest.

The governor apologized to the public,especially to the private sector, if the enforcement was quickly implemented without the proper clarification to merchants and the public.

Togiola recalled his statement two weekends ago where he called on the businesses not to be quick to complain or call the governor and the government some very colorful names, but to come together to discuss various issues of concern, to see where they could be addressed.

He said the goal is to protect the environment to last forever. In his memorandum to ASG departments and agencies regarding the ban on phosphates, the governor says the ban of phosphates in detergents is necessary to maintain water quality in American Samoa.

By requiring of use of phosphate-free detergents, the government is reducing pollution and ensuring water quality throughout American Samoa, he said.

Meanwhile, medical facilities can apply to Customs Division for a waiver to the ban and this information was reported by Samoa News last month when the executive order to ban phosphates was released.

However, it appears from a handful of e-mails to Samoa News that some are not aware that a waiver is available for medical facilities, who must among other things, provide to Customs prior to importation, description of the soap/detergent including name of product, amount imported, ingredients, phosphate levels and point of origin.

The request must also include an explanation as to why it is necessary that the soap/detergent with phosphates is necessary and why there are no viable alternatives. Samoa News again urged any vendors needing more information to contact the Governor’s Office for a copy of the executive order, which includes other bans.