Amata Speaks to IGIA on Key Factors Including Fishing Rights and Health Care

February 25, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Monday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata attended the annual Interagency Group on Insular Affairs (IGIA), and delivered remarks in support of American Samoa’s needs.

Amata and IGIA meeting-002Congresswoman Amata (center) speaking at IGIA session.

 

“Thank you to everyone involved in this yearly process of ensuring that the Department of Interior’s leadership is fully aware of needs and issues of importance to the insular areas,” said Aumua Amata. “A lot of hard work goes into this event from our people in the islands and those working at the Interior Department. I appreciate the leadership of President Trump, Secretary Bernhardt, and Assistant Secretary Doug Domenech, and their friendship to American Samoa. Thank you also to Governor Lolo, and the priorities that the Territory and his delegation emphasized in Washington.”

Congresswoman Amata with Governor Leon Guerrero of Guam and Congresswoman Plaskett of USVI at IGIA-001Congresswoman Amata with Congresswoman Plaskett of USVI (left) and Governor Leon Guerrero of Guam (center)

 

These meetings are a way to bring together various officials from the Insular Areas to request, inform and report to the Administration in one concerted effort that highlights the specific needs of any one Territory, and also broadly addresses those issues that overlap with other Territories.

Amata and the Governor's team at IGIA-001Congresswoman Aumua Amata (center) with the Governor’s team in Washington: From left, Medicaid Director Sandra King Young; Iu Joseph Pereira, Executive Assistant to Governor Lolo; Alema Leota, Counsel to the Governor; Fiu Saelua, Chief of Staff to the Governor; and Ti’a Patrick Reid.

 

Under a current Presidential Executive Order — The IGIA shall solicit information and advice from the elected leaders of the U.S. Insular Areas of Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and make recommendations to the President annually, or as appropriate, on the establishment or implementation of Federal programs concerning these Insular Areas.

Congresswoman Amata’s Speech to IGIA:

Thank you, Secretary Bernhardt and everyone for putting this event together and a special thanks to President Trump for his Leadership on Territorial issues.

It is good to be with all of you today to find solutions to advance our common interests in improving the lives of all the people in each of our Territories. 

We each have our own unique history, culture and traditions that we all cherish and seek to preserve but we also do this together as Americans one and all.

Many island economies are often heavily reliant on a single industry such as tourism or the military.   In our case it’s the fishing industry.   Our tuna cannery is the dominant economic force in our community. 

The cannery needs more fish and improved fishing access, so that brings me to my next point—restoring our fishing areas.

The Pacific Remote Islands Monuments decision to Restore Fishing Rights for American Samoa is still pending at the White House.

The Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Council (WPRFC) does a great job managing our fisheries. They voted to ask the President to remove the fishing prohibitions in the Pacific Marine Monuments.   They know that it can be done without harm to sustaining the fish stocks or their environment. I support this effort and continue to advocate for it with the President and his administration.

The Department of the Interior’s report and recommendations to the President followed the Council’s lead.  The Department recommended the President restore the fisheries council’s authority to regulate fishing in the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument (PRINM) and Rose Atoll and remove commercial fishing restrictions. This is one of the few chances we have in American Samoa to expand our economy, so it is very important to us.

I look forward to the President’s forthcoming decision on this important economic development issue. We simply need more fish for our cannery and we need more access to the fishing areas in our own EEZ to get it—I hope this happens and soon.

Each Territory also has specialized incentives to assist their economic development—in American Samoa we have the Section 30A economic development credit to aid our tuna industry. American Samoa would like to have the Administration’s support on extending and expanding this program further to help diversify our local economy.

Turning to healthcare, I agree with my Congressional colleagues here and thank them for their leadership on territorial healthcare reform. The Territories deserve and need state-like treatment when it comes to Medicaid.

Providing adequate funding to the American Samoan healthcare system is of paramount importance to maintain a local balanced budget and provide essential health services to the people.

The recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 mandates a study be done by Interior in 90 days and report to Congress on the cost of repairing or replacing American Samoa’s LBJ Hospital. The much-needed report will outline what needs to be done to modernize our only hospital, ensuring we can continue to provide quality health services to our people.

I hope the Administration will continue to work closely with the Governors, my fellow Members and the rest of Congress to support the structural reforms needed to maintain access to quality healthcare services for everyone in the Territories, especially our Veterans. Thank you.

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