Opposition leader disbelieves moves to build new airport

Samoan Islands.

Samoan Islands.

Alan Ah Mu

APIA: WEDNESDAY 28 AUGUST 2013: Government is on the way to building an airport at Aleipata but the Opposition leader sounded like he couldn’t believe his ears when told about it.

Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo has spoken favourably of the idea to state-run newspaper The Savali which reports that a Cabinet-appointed task force has recommended it.

Fonotoe is quoted as saying that “it will mean more volume and more opportunities to airlift agricultural products and locally manufactured goods to American Samoa. It’s certainly the gateway to the huge United States market.”

“And if all goes well, the Aleipata Airport should be completed in five years,” Minister of Civil Aviation Manu’alegalala Enokati Posala the newspaper quotes as saying.

Opposition leader Palusalue Fa’apo II responded to the news with a disbelieving, “Is that so?”

They will research the matter and issue a view next week at a media conference, Palusalue said.

His Tautua Samoa Party last week said huge fee increases proposed by Samoa Ports Authority was caused by the millions of tala spent in the revival of a wharf at Satitoa which they had argued against for financial and environmental reasons.

The wharf was intended to boost trade with American Samoa too.

Reportedly the new airport will be built at Satitoa a village in Aleipata District.

Asked if such an airport can be profitable Chief Executive Officer of Polynesian Airlines, Taua Fatu Tielu said it won’t in the short term.

“Profitability will follow if the stated goals are achieved,” Taua said.

“And can the stated goals be achieved? I think yes but not in the short term,” he said.

Polynesian Airlines runs Fagali’i for now the nearest airport in the country to American Samoa.

“In the short term it (the new airport) will have minimal impact on Fagali’i Airport but it does provide an alternative airport if operations from Faleolo and Fagali’i are disrupted by the weather or some other phenomena,” Taua said.

Polynesian’s rival on the inter-Samoa route, Samoa Air, favours an airport located at Aleipata.

It asked Government for one it says.

In a fact sheet available for the information of potential investors Samoa Air says:

“In June of this year the CEO joined the Aleipata Task force to pursue a request the Airline had earlier made to government to develop the Eastern Tip of Upolu with an airport. A suitable location has been referred to the team and the location is now being assessed with a view to using this site to connect both domestically and to Pago in American Samoa.”

Aleipata is located at the eastern most part of Upolu Island – and is the district closest to American Samoa.

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