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ASG to pick up shipping costs for goods to Manu'a

Shipments of goods and other products for store owners and residents in the Manu’a island group will be “free of charge” when taken on board the MV Sili with the new policy starting with tomorrow’s voyage of the government owned vessel.


The new policy was announced by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga during last week’s cabinet meeting saying that an official letter was going out to the Department of Port Administration on this issue. He said residents of Manu’a are paying higher costs because of having to ship goods and other items to the island group.


For example, he said a pack of cigarettes that costs $4 or $5 on Tutuila is $9 at stores in Manu’a; and a small box of chicken costs $11 in Manu’a while it is around $5 on Tutuila.  He recalled that when Manu’a residents applied for home repair loans at the Development Bank of American Samoa, an additional amount was added on to cover the costs of shipping. For example, if the loan is $10,000 there is an additional request for $3,000 to cover the shipping costs of materials and supplies from Tutuila.


Lolo says changes must be made to assist with Manu’a residents who are depending on goods being shipped from Tutuila. The governor did make clear that all passengers traveling on the MV Sili are required to pay the set fares and the government will pay for cargo to Manu’a.


“Manu’a will never be developed unless we do something different. So let's start with shipping those things free of charge,” he said.


This move by the Lolo administration is welcomed by Manu’a residents. When contacted over the weekend for comments, a store owner on Ta’u island said, this is “welcomed news” and confirmed that prices of items sold in Manu’a stores are much higher.


“This is helpful for store owners depending on shipping products to Manu’a.  And prices are even higher if we have no choice but to ship by plane,” said the store owner, who asked not be identified.


A private resident, who also asked not be identified, says shipping free of charge is very helpful. “It's sad when your family members on Tutuila purchase supplies for families in Manu’a and then have to pay the shipping costs on a government vessel is just too much for anyone,” said the resident in a phone interview from Ta’u.


Lolo also revealed that his first official visit to Manu’a is set for Tuesday morning and he will travel on the ASG plane Segaula. He will travel with other ASG officials heading first to Ofu and Olosega islands followed thereafter to Ta’u island.


He said the focus now is to “assist Manu’a in our economic development and the only way we can do that is spend time and money and effort to make sure that we are doing something for Manu’a.”