Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that late last night the House Committee on Interior Appropriations passed by a vote of 293 to 128 H.R. 5386, the FY 2007 Interior Appropriations bill which includes over $33 million for the operations of the American Samoa Government and Capital Improvement Projects (CIPS). The bill also includes language which urges greater accountability of ASG funds and discourages the commercial development of Utulei Beach Park.
“As I said in my release of May 16th, ASG continues to be the only government that receives a direct appropriation from Congress for the operations of its government despite being designated as high risk,” the Congressman said. “As a result of this support, I am hopeful that our local government will provide better accountability and I commend ASG for the progress it is making.”
“At this time, I thank the House Committee on Interior Appropriations for including my request to set aside $500,000 of the $22,880,000 ASG will receive for government operations. As stated in the Committee report, ‘The Committee expects the government of American Samoa will use no less than $500,000 of this funding for physical education activities at school.’”
“I am pleased by this outcome since our public schools lack adequate facilities, equipment and personnel to provide quality health and education programs which are critical to the physical, mental, and social development of our students. As a result of this funding, I am hopeful that our local DOE will have the support it needs to purchase equipment and establish sports programs for the benefit of our children.”
“I am also hopeful that our local leaders will work quickly to resolve the McDonald’s issue that has now drawn Congressional attention. Again, I like McDonald’s and I applaud the many valuable contributions McDonald’s has made in American Samoa. I also support construction of a new McDonald’s anywhere in American Samoa but Utulei Beach.”
“The fact is Utulei Beach is a federally protected park area and, by contractual agreement, cannot be used for any commercial purpose. Therefore, the current proposal to construct a McDonald’s within a federally protected park area is a potential violation of ASG’s agreement with the US National Park Service (NPS) and, as such, is an issue that has escalated into a federal problem that must be expeditiously resolved.”
“In other words, the current debate about McDonald’s is a debate about location. If McDonald’s builds on land solely-controlled by ASG, then it’s a local issue. But if McDonald’s seeks to build on land that has been protected as a federal park area, then it’s a federal issue and this is why Congress has taken an interest.”
“Put another way, ASG, by choice, entered into an agreement with the NPS to protect Utulei Beach and now Congress has spoken out in the FY 2007 Interior Appropriations bill to “encourage the American Samoa government to not allow commercial development of waterfront areas of Utulei Beach Park because this site has such high recreational and natural values, and it has enjoyed funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund Program which indicates that this park land should be dedicated to public outdoor recreational use in perpetuity.”
“While it is unfortunate that construction of a new McDonald’s in our Territory has received Congressional attention and while it is worrisome that the US Congress has taken notice that ASG received federal funds to preserve Utulei Beach but is not being accountable for those funds, I believe it is in the best interest of our Territory to resolve this matter quickly so that other federal funding we receive will not be jeopardized.”
“As I said in a previous release, American Samoa, on a per capita basis, receives more federal education funding per pupil than any other State or Territory. Our health care funding has also doubled and recently we were able to significantly increase our Medicaid funding. With the amount of support and funding we are receiving, I am convinced if there is better accountability of federal funds we will see significant improvements in this Territory.”
“Again, I thank my colleagues for their support and, as this bill now moves to the Senate for consideration, I will continue to work to make sure American Samoa receives its fair share of federal dollars,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.