With all the impressive talk about the Tui Samoa Cable being promoted by the government of Samoa, the American Samoa government is not convinced.
In fact they are keeping their distance.
This was revealed by the Governor of American Samoa, Lolo Matalasi Moliga, during an interview with the Samoa Observer in Apia.
He said they are “not satisfied” with the proposal from Samoa. The Governor is concerned about “conflicting” money obligations as well as the “lack of clarity” in terms of cost and benefits analysis.
“The presentation (by Samoa) was conducted in a manner where we left with many unanswered questions,” Governor Lolo said.
“But that’s not the only reason. This is just one issue among other reasons, such as approval from the Federal Government.”
Funding was also another major factor.
“We will be asking the Federal Government for money to fund it and they have already expressed their concerns given the Cable will laid through foreign countries.”
Going back to the presentation, Lolo said he was not present.
However Lt. Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga, American Samoa’s Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale and former Bluesky Chief Executive Officer, Aoe’e Adolfo Montenegro, were there and they were not convinced.
“There were many unanswered questions and luckily for us Aoe’e was present as he is well versed with these types of projects.
“We really wanted to know the details, like any business venture.”
Lolo pointed out that while there is no questioning the economic benefits of the Cable, the bottom line is, if American Samoa was to get in bed with a foreign country they have to get Federal approval.
“Its too early to make a decision. We have to understand the full scope, that’s just the decision right now.
“Another concern is that the team from Samoa noted that American Samoa was to pay US$4Million to join, however at the end of the presentation and upon questions from Aoe’e Adolfo Montenegro it was discovered that in the end American Samoa will have to pay US$12million.”
Governor Lolo reminded that the ties between Samoa and American Samoa are based on cultural and familial ties.
“But when it comes to issues dealing with foreign countries, we don't deal directly with the Samoa government.”
The Governor reiterated the need to seek approval from the Federal government, given American Samoa is a territory of the United States.
Lolo said one of their concerns involves security issues.
“This is a gateway to get through to America.” He did not go into details.
According to Lolo, the American Samoa government has learned so much from the purchasing of the American Samoa Hawai’i Cable LLC (or ASH-Cable) which they are the minority shareholder.
“I felt the [American Samoa] government did not fully understand yet we went ahead and purchased it.
“With the Tui cable, it is true it’s Samoa, but its still a foreign country and we have to abide by foreign policies in place as we are under America.
“The only relation we are developing between the Samoa’s is mostly cultural development and families, but when it comes to the foreign policies we don't deal directly with Samoa.
“We have to take the seat behind America when it comes to dealings with foreign countries.”
In March 2017, the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, Samoa Submarine Cable Company (S.S.C.C) Chairman Pepe Fia'ailetoa Christian Fruean and C.E.O Emmanual Delanoue were in American Samoa to present the proposal for A.S.G’s consideration.
Asked for a comment regarding the concerns raised by the Governor of American Samoa, Minister Afamasaga said: “I can confirm that the Government of Samoa and its implementation agency, the Samoa Submarine Cable company have formally approached the American Samoa Government with a commercial proposal in order to jointly-build a new inter-island submarine cable called the ‘2 Samoa’ submarine cable.
“The key benefit of the proposed partnership is the ability to aggregate internet traffic for both countries in order to increase the economies of scale and provide cost saving for both islands.”
Afamasaga said S.S.C.C is continuing to engage their counterparts in the American Samoa government and provide them with information to help them assess the merits of the ‘2 Samoa’ commercial proposal.
He also pointed to the confidentiality agreement signed between the two Samoa.
“As this is a commercial negotiation which is bound by strict confidentiality agreements signed by both parties, the government and S.S.C.C are not able to respond or provide any further comment on the matters or any representations made by our partners in American Samoa.”