Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, and Congresswoman Laura Richardson (D-CA), announced today that the U.S. Department of State called them this morning to inform them that Secretary Clinton has authorized the use of funds from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to get emergency relief supplies airlifted from the greater Los Angeles area to Samoa in response to the devastating tsunami that struck Apia on September 29.
In his capacity as Chairman of the Asia Pacific Subcommittee which has broad jurisdiction for U.S. foreign policy affecting the region, including Samoa, Chairman Faleomavaega personally spoke to Secretary Clinton on Oct 1 and, in letters dated Oct 4 and Oct 5, followed up with her regarding the specific need to airlift emergency supplies to Apia, which were gathered by the Samoan communities and congregations in the greater Los Angeles area.
The Samoan communities in the greater Los Angeles directly contacted Faleomavaega for assistance because many of their families and relatives live in his district of American Samoa or Samoa. Congresswoman Laura Richardson has worked closely with Faleomavaega throughout this process given that she represents part of the greater Los Angeles area, and the Samoan communities living in that area are her constituents.
“I want to personally thank Secretary Clinton for her untiring efforts in getting these relief supplies airlifted,” Chairman Faleomavaega said. “Since the tsunami struck, Secretary Clinton has spared no effort in coming to our aid, and even called upon the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to quickly move these supplies from the West Coast to Samoa. Last evening, Congresswoman Richardson and I learned that DOD had agreed to move the supplies but that due to legalities of moving privately-donated goods, the process would take too long.”
“In a previous conference call yesterday, anticipating that DOD might be unable to quickly move these supplies, we requested the State Department to fund a commercial flight through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance should we encounter any problems with DOD,” Faleomavaega and Rep. Richardson said. “Last night, upon learning that the DOD process would take too long and in consideration of our request for a more immediate airlift, Secretary Clinton assessed the options while en route to Europe, and this morning the State Department informed us that Secretary Clinton has agreed to fund the flight with OFDA funds.”
“The agreement is that this will be a one-time airlift, and our Samoan communities should make future donations in cash, rather than in commodities. We will not be able to airlift frozen goods, and our offices will work closely with the communities to gather the supplies to a central location for the airlift. Also, the airlift provided by the U.S. Department of State can only be authorized to land in Samoa. While we were also hopeful to get supplies in to American Samoa, all matters relating to American Samoa are decided between the Governor and FEMA, according to federal law.”
“I know from my meeting earlier this week with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi that he is thankful to the Samoan congregations and communities in the greater Los Angeles area who responded from the heart by collecting critical supplies that will now be airlifted to those in need,” Faleomavaega said. “For this reason, I want to thank the Prime Minister for agreeing to accept this gift, and I also want to thank Reverend Liki Tiatia, Reverend John Mailo, Reverend Misipouena Tagaloa, and High Chief Loa Pele Faletogo for all the good work they have done. Reverend Tiatia and Reverend Mailo will be taking a flight to Samoa to make the presentation to the Government of Samoa on behalf of our Samoan community on the West Coast and also on behalf of Congresswoman Richardson and myself.”
“I especially want to thank Congresswoman Richardson for working around the clock in support of our Samoan communities living in her district, and in Samoa and American Samoa,” Faleomavaega continued. “Congresswoman Richardson has stood by us every step of the way and has left no stone unturned in getting this done. She has been staunch and solid in her dedication to us, and has earned her rightful place in our hearts. It is my honor to welcome Congresswoman Richardson into our Pacific Island family.”
“With so many people in need of basic supplies in Samoa, it has been a privilege to work with Chairman Faleomavaega to assist the people of my district in making sure the items they have collected will soon be in the hands of their families and friends,” Congresswoman Richardson said. “This feat is only possible because of the dedication of Chairman Faleomavaega and Secretary Clinton. Over 60 local organizations in the 37th district of California, including church groups, non-profit organizations and caring others collected over 100,000 pounds of essential items to send to victims of the tragedy that recently occurred. The lives of thousands of Samoans will be immediately and directly improved by the actions taken by Secretary Clinton, Chairman Faleomavaega and all of us who answered the call to help. I am proud to be a part of this exceptional team.”
“It is clear that change has come and that Secretary Clinton is restoring America’s stature once again, especially in a part of the world that the U.S. has too long neglected. We thank Secretary Clinton for her leadership and commitment, and for standing with the people of Samoa when they need her most, and we continue to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who are suffering so much,” Faleomavaega and Rep. Richardson concluded.