Cablegate: Ambassador Visits Northern Luzon to Deepen Us Philippine


DE RUEHML #0850/01 0740841
O 150841Z MAR 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY. Ambassador Kristie Kenney visited Cabanatuan, Tarlac,
and Baguio in the northern Luzon provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac
and Benguet March 8-9. Ambassador Kenney focused on deepening
relations with northern Luzon interlocutors and highlighting
historical and cultural ties between the Philippines and the U.S.
The trip commemorated International Women's Day with a visit to
former president Corazon Aquino at her presidential library/museum,
and representational events gathering prominent women leaders from
education, government and NGOs. Events in the summer capital of
Baguio demonstrated the continuing value of the Embassy Residence
there as a forward base for regional outreach. END SUMMARY.

2. Ambassador Kenney began her trip in Cabanatuan, at the site of a
World War Two Prisoner Of War camp. Over 3,000 U.S. servicemen died
at the hands of Japanese captors at this camp. US Rangers, in
partnership with Filipino units, conducted a successful raid in 1945
to free the remaining 500 prisoners; an operation depicted in the
recent movie, "The Great Raid." Little remains of the actual
facility, but plaques have been erected in memory of the dead, and
the American Battlefield Monuments Commission ensures that the
memorials and grounds are maintained.

3. Ambassador Kenney also visited the International Broadcasting
Bureau's Philippines Transmitting Station in Tinang, Tarlac.
Eighty-seven foreign nationals and 5 American staff together
maintain a USD 5.4 million operation that broadcasts to the South
East Asian region in multiple languages. The 2,300 acre facility has
opened unused land adjacent to the transmitting antennae to local
farmers for cultivation, and its community action program comprises
a number of innovative initiatives aimed at supporting the mostly
poor neighboring communities with education and daycare, medical and
emergency aid, and potable water. These innovative programs build
goodwill with neighbors and have helped create a network of eyes and
ears that informally provide security for the station against
robbers and insurgents.

4. Ambassador Kenney paid a courtesy call on former President of the
Philippines, Corazon Aquino, and toured the Aquino Center museum in
Tarlac City. The center is modeled on the Kennedy presidential
library in Boston, the city where Mrs. Aquino and her martyred
husband had sought asylum for several years from the regime of
Ferdinand Marcos. Mrs. Aquino served as president from 1986 to 1992,
succeeding Marcos. She had previously led a three-year campaign for
greater political freedom following the assassination of her late
husband and former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. Mrs. Aquino
confirmed that she and her family were almost fully engaged in
supporting the bid by her son, Congressman Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino
III for a seat in the Philippines Senate.

5. On the evening of March 8, Ambassador Kenney hosted the first of
several events at the U.S. Embassy Residence in Baguio City. Baguio
was established in the early 1900s as the highland summer capital of
the Philippines. The residence was opened in 1940 for what was then
the U.S. High Commissioner for the Philippines Commonwealth, and was
later the site of the surrender of Japanese forces in the
Philippines at the end of World War II.

6. Baguio remains the official "summer capital" of the Philippines,
but is better known as a major regional educational center, boasting
five major universities and the joint-services Philippine Military
Academy. The city has built on the highly-educated population to
become a burgeoning high-tech hub, home to U.S. companies Texas
Instruments and aviation supplier Moog Instruments, as well as
numerous call centers and back-room processing operations for U.S.
and international firms. Today the residence is a valuable
programming venue in Baguio, and is also available on a cost basis
to USG employees for official and personal use.

7. The evening reception was an opportunity to deepen relations with
over 100 Mission contacts from Baguio and the region. Guests
included university administrators and faculty, a large contingent
from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) led by their
Superintendent, and representatives from local NGO leaders. Also
present were alumni of various State Department-funded programs,
including the International Visitor Leadership Program, Fulbright,
the Humphrey Fellowship program, and State/ECA American Studies
institutes. A number of reporters, both local correspondents of
Philippines national media and journalists from Baguio and northern
Luzon news outlets also attended.

8. The following morning, March 9, as part of the Mission's
celebration of International Women's Day, the Ambassador hosted a
coffee for 25 women leaders from the Baguio area. Guests included
presidents of local universities, local government officials,
cultural figures, and NGO activists. Ferah Decano, a member of the
city council of Dagupan (a medium-sized town in a neighboring
province), provided a case study of the effectiveness of the
International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Ms. Decano
participated in a FY-2006 program on local governance, focused on
how cities can respond to challenges of crime and corruption. In
the six months since her return she has drafted and - in the face of
bitter opposition and threats of violence - secured enactment of an

ordinance that fights prostitution by focusing on the male customer.
The ordinance is modeled on a local law that Ms. Decano learned
about during her IVLP stop in St. Louis. Ms. Decano has drafted a
second ordinance she hopes to see enacted that will increase
government transparency in her city.

9. Ambassador Kenney was interviewed March 9 at the Residence by
ABS-CBN TV's northern and central Luzon station, and the taped
segment appeared that night on "TV Patrol Northern Luzon."
Questions focused on the Ambassador's International Women's Day
visit to northern Luzon, on the Department's recently released
Report on human rights practices in the Philippines, and on
prospects for increased U.S. investment in the Baguio area.

10. These events demonstrated the continuing dynamism of Baguio and
the surrounding regions, and the value of the Baguio Residence as a
forward venue for Mission outreach to northern Luzon. Guests were
deeply impressed by the attractiveness and historic significance of
the building. Feedback received during and after the reception and
coffee indicates that the events had a positive impact on the
attendees and generated a significant reservoir of goodwill that
will be useful for future Mission outreach in Baguio and the region.


© Scoop Media

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