Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs and Oceans and Wildlife conducted its first legislative meeting on H.R. 860, to reauthorize the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, and H.R. 934, to convey certain submerged lands to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Witnesses for the hearing included Governor Togiola Tulafono of American Samoa, Governor Felix Camacho of Guam, and Governor Benigno Fitial of CNMI.
In his written statement, Faleomavaega noted, “H.R. 860, the Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization and Enhancement Amendments of 2009, is very similar to the bill I, together with Congresswoman Bordallo, Congresswoman Christensen, and Congressman Abercrombie, introduced in the 110th Congress. H.R. 1205, as it was then numbered, passed the House but unfortunately stalled in the Senate. The bill we have before us today, H.R. 860 incorporates recommendations and suggestions from members of our U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, various federal agencies, non-governmental agencies, and, importantly, our coastal states and territories. Moreover, it includes new provisions adopted from the Senate companion bill that was reported by the Senate Commerce Committee during the 110th Congress”
“H.R. 934 is also similar to the bill that was introduced in 2005 during the 109th Congress by Congressman Flake (HR 4255) which I co-sponsored together with my other colleagues including Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, Congresswoman Donna Christensen, Congressman Neil Abercrombie, and former Congressman Luis Fortuno from Puerto Rico,” Faleomavaega added.
“I am grateful to Chairwoman Bordallo for conducting this hearing on these issues that are critical to our territories and for inviting our Pacific governors to testify and offer valuable input on the matter for the Committee and Congress to consider.”
“It just happened that the Close Up students from the Pacific territories were also in Washington, DC during this time and I invited them to witness the hearing. During the hearing, I was able to have the students from American Samoa sing for the Committee members and witnesses.”
“I believe this may have been the first time in the history of this great institution that we have had students from our tiny island of American Samoa perform before a Congressional hearing. Needless to say, it was a packed room with people standing against the walls and our students did not hesitate for a moment in response to my request. They performed so well and sang so beautifully that Governor Togiola and I are so proud of them,” Faleomavaega said.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Faleomavaega and Governor Togiola were rejoined by the American Samoa students in the Congressman’s office for a rap session and more entertainment. Earlier in the day, Faleomavaega met with the Close Up students and teachers from American Samoa in his office. During that meeting, he also introduced the students to Ambassador Ruth Kahanoff of the Government of Israel, who is now the Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. Ambassador Kahanoff once served as Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Samoa, and other Pacific Island nations, and she was touched by the presence and beautiful singing of the Close Up students.
Faleomavaega also took the Close Up students on a brief tour of the U.S. Capitol that included a visit inside the House Chamber. The students were able to witness how Congress conducts its business as a bill was being voted at the time. The students were also able to see where President Obama spoke on the evening of Tuesday, February 24, 2009 when he gave his first address to a joint session of Congress and to the nation.
“I want to thank Governor Togiola not only for testifying at the hearing, but also for joining the Close-Up students in my office after the hearing. Governor Togiola made significant time during his visit to work together on issues affecting our young people and Territory, and I commend the work he and our First Lady are doing on our behalf.”
“I also want to thank the teachers and Mr. Lagitao Lagitao, who is the coordinator of the Close Up program in American Samoa, for the fine work they are doing in our high schools. The Close Up program continues to have my full support because I believe it is very important for our young people to learn how government works, especially since our future will be in their hands. Again, I thank our students for representing our Territory at Tuesday’s hearing, and I want their teachers, parents and families to know how proud I am of them,” Faleomavaega concluded.
Photo 1: Faleomavaega is discussing with students how the U.S. Federal government operates, the role of Congress, and how American Samoa fits in the structure.
Photo 2: Faleomavaega and Mr. Lagitao Lagitao, ASG-DOE Coordinator for Close Up program.
Photo 3: Faleomavaega with teacher Janice Seau-Lisiake and students Fuatino Solaita, Dorothy Moeolo, and Tutonuivainiu Ekeroma of Samoana High School.