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USCG honors Togiola with commendation

UTULEI — Gov. Togiola Tulafono was honored yesterday with a Public Service Commendation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard in a brief ceremony at the Office of the Governor.

At the ceremony, in recognition of notable services that have assisted greatly in furthering the aims and functions of the Coast Guard, Chief Warrant Officer Stan LeCain of the U.S. Coast Guard, on behalf of Rear Admiral Charles W. Ray — U.S. Coast Guard Commander, Fourteenth Coast Guard District — Honolulu, and Captain Joanna Nunan — Commander of the Coast Guard Sector in Honolulu, who could not travel from Hawaii to attend the award ceremony, presented Togiola with the Certificate of Public Service Commendation for his exceptional contributions to the United States Coast Guard missions and the maritime community during his tenure from April 2003 to January 2013.

“Governor Togiola’s role in establishing the American Samoa Area Maritime Security Committee led to Pago Pago’s very first maritime exercise, bringing together territorial and federal government agencies and members of the private sector,” said Chief Warrant Officer, who read the commendation that was signed by Rear Admiral Ray. “This committee and exercise substantially raised the level of cooperation between members of the territorial government, the Coast Guard, and marine industry on a wide variety of issues, including security capabilities; he invested in the Department of Public Safety’s Marine Patrol and significantly expanded their capabilities.”

In expressing his gratitude to Rear Admiral Ray, Captain Nunan and the U.S. Coast Guard, Governor Togiola said to Chief Warrant Officer LeCain that he was extremely touched by the recognition and he believed that the honor also goes to the all government departments and partners in the private sector who greatly assisted the efforts of the government.

“I am deeply honored and privileged for this recognition from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard, and as a humble servant to the people of American Samoa, I could not have performed my job without the wonderful help of so many hardworking government employees and their respective departments and agencies as well as our business community,” said Togiola.

“I wish to thank you for this great honor and I proudly accept it on behalf of so many people who contributed greatly to our efforts in our administration.”

Togiola also said working with the U.S. Coast Guard for many years has been entirely gratifying.

“As far back to the time I was lieutenant governor, our relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard has been most excellent and very rewarding, and I am so thankful for their cooperation in working together with us and our maritime partners, to address port security, homeland security, the environment, and protecting and keeping our harbor and ocean,” said Togiola. “I offer my sincere gratitude to Rear Admiral Ray and Captain Nunan for this kind recognition. It is my hope and prayer that the new administration will continue this wonderful partnership well into the future.”

The Public Service Commendation also cited, “under Governor Togiola’s leadership, the Marine Patrol grew from six people with jet skis to 16 people with three vessels, including a new 33-foot patrol craft capable of expanding their reach for the first time to the islands of Manu’a and Aunu’u.”

“With no Coast Guard small boats in the Territory and limited patrols by other larger Coast Guard assets, this provides additional near shore search and rescue capabilities as well as practical assets for enforcement of recreational boating safety laws formalized in a memorandum of Agreement with the Coast Guard.

With an eye to the future of boating safety education, Governor Togiola supported the establishment of a Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla in 2012 which has grown from 25 to 40 members in only six months.

He has also partnered with the Coast Guard to address several maritime pollution threats, including using his authority to seize and destroy abandoned vessels that had become dumping sites.

Governor _Togiola also authorized the use of the Territory’s customs authority to withhold clearance of three foreign flagged vessels suspected of bypassing their oily water separators and dumping waste oil directly into the sea.

This cooperation was essential to the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of the owners of these vessels for environmental crimes with fines already totaling more than $3 million and sentencing still pending in one case.

Through the acquisition of the Motor Vessel Sili, a Coast Guard inspected ferry, and improvements to the port of Pago Pago, Governor Togiola has made significant contributions towards modernizing American Samoa’s marine transportation system.

He has been a guiding hand through the years including following the 2009 tsunami which left 32 people dead and tremendous devastation among several villages and the post of Pago Pago.

Governor Togiola advised the Coast Guard in recovery efforts within the harbor, and this partnership was essential in reopening the port, prioritizing ship traffic, and demonstrating a united response between both the territorial and federal governments during this time of crisis.

Governor Togiola’s dedication is most heartily commended and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.”