Tuilaepa Warns Against Re-opening Fagalii Airport

0
1422

Tue 5 October 2021 Apia Samoa. Translated from #FaaSamoa.

Opposition leader Hon Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi has raised concerns about a decision to re-open Fagalii Airport, which had been declared unsafe and closed in January 2020.

In a press conference with media held last week, Samoa’s former Prime Minister warned that the 670 metre asphalt airstrip was too short and according to Tuilaepa, there had been near misses of accidents over the years.

“These fast planes found it difficult to stop and there were close calls, time and time again at Fagalii because the airstrip was too short,” he said.

“Na o le tau lavea tau lavea o vaa i le malae vaalele i Fagalii ona e puupuu tele..”

Tuilaepa said safety was a major factor as well as concerns raised by residents of Fagalii with homes nearby the airport.

According to Tuilaepa his government had explored the possibility of extending the runway at Fagalii but found it was not possible.

“There are deep valleys beyond the runway, and then there are families living on the other side”, he told the media.

According to Tuilaepa, Fagalii Airport was also a high risk to Samoa’s borders for being an opening for drugs to come into Samoa.

“Border control staff are divided between Faleolo and Fagalii and this was becoming a risk for drugs to get through,” he added.

Cycles of Open and Close

Fagalii Airport has been closed and re-opened multiple times over the years. The latest decision was less than two years ago in January 2020.

At one time a grass-only airstrip, Fagali’i Airport was paved and reopened on 6 July 2002 only to be de-commissioned within three years in January 2005 due to Government and village concerns over safety and noise.

On 1 July 2009, Polynesian Airlines reopened Fagali’i airport and resumed a service that included international flights to American Samoa. The reopening of the airport was controversial at the time and attracted criticism both for the safety and environmental issues, given the airport’s configuration. 

Ten years later the Government again decided Fagalii is unsafe and held yet another official closing ceremony in January 2020.

Attempts to receive a comment from the Honorable Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure (MWTI), Olo Afoa Fiti Vaai were unsuccessful.