By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – 31 AUGUST 2020: The new Vaisigano Bridge that officially opened last Friday evening was a fitting symbol of resilience, endurance and strength mirrored in the characteristic traits of the Samoan people.
This was how Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi described the bridge when he officially opened it last Friday evening.
He said Governments have been building bridges with all her development partners to connect their common interests and foster understanding but the new bridge is a symbol of partnership with the Government and people of Japan.
The new bridge replaced the 67 year old bridge which had served Samoa well over the years.
After cyclone Evan in 2012, an assessment of all three bridges that connect all corners of Samoa and its international ports, noted that a replacement bridge was needed.
The Government of Japan stepped in and granted $44 million for a new bridge.
Through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan provided the design, contractor Konoike Construction and supervision of the work assisted by local contractors Blue Bird Company and Cabella Construction.
“The Vaisigano Bridge complements the recently upgraded Apia Port which was also funded by the Government of Japan,” said Tuilaepa.
“I extend our sincere gratitude to the Government of Japan through your Excellency Genichi Terasawa for funding this project and for your continuing support to the transport sector and through the many opportunities for capacity building of our people,” said Tuilaepa.
Japan’s Ambassador to Samoa His Excellency Genichi Terasawa reiterated the importance of partnerships then cited Japan’s long relationship with Samoa and referred to other projects funded by Japan including the extension to the Matautu wharf.
“There is the Matautu wharf, behind this bridge. Japan has contributed to its development, together with the other development partners including New Zealand and the Asian Development Bank. Our recent project for the wharf has made it possible for large freight or passenger ships to enter the port safely. The opening of this new bridge will allow tourists of cruiser ships and goods to have easy access to the downtown of the capital,” said the Ambassador.
“In October last year, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and Prime Minister ABE agreed to the new grant project to construct a new ship to connect between Samoa and overseas. The new ship is expected to go into service two years from now.
“However, the current COVID-19 pandemic has bitterly been afflicting a huge number of people around the world and blocking cross-border travel.
“It is quite regrettable that tourists from overseas has not been able to come to Samoa, hence neither the Matautu wharf nor this new bridge could function fully for their roles.
“To restore cross-border travels, what the world mostly needs is safe and effective vaccines. Japan joins a part of an international concerted efforts including Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America for development and dissemination of vaccines so that island countries will continue to be free from COVID-19 and the Pacific can safely normalize their economic and social activities such as tourism.
“However, some medical experts predict that it will take several years for safe and effective vaccines to be disseminated to Pacific island countries.
“The question is, how can we survive this difficulty until the economy is normalized?
“In order to find possible solutions, next year, Japan will invite the leaders of the Pacific island countries to hold the 9th Pacific Island Countries Leaders Meeting. We would like to discuss earnestly with Prime Minister Tuilaepa along with leaders of Pacific island countries various agenda, such as overcoming the difficulties caused by the current pandemic, strengthening the health sector of the Pacific island countries, measures against climate change and natural disasters, maintaining the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific.”