Cablegate: Ambassador Visits Successful Usg Programs in Bicol

DE RUEHML #1089/01 0940544
O 040544Z APR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Ambassador Visits Successful USG Programs in Bicol

REF: A) Manila 4916 B) Manila 4919

1. Summary: Ambassador Kenney traveled to communities in the Bicol
region to view USAID- and USDA-sponsored development assistance
programs focusing on dairy development, ecotourism, and coastal
resource management. The Ambassador's visit showcased successes in
improving the livelihoods of communities in the region, providing
feasible alternatives to illegal fishing and reducing poverty and
thus the influence of New People's Army terrorists. Ambassador
Kenney's visit was well-received by local and national Philippine
government officials. End Summary.

Bicol Region: Agricultural Paradise Beset by Natural Disasters
------------------------------ --------------------------------

2. Bicol is a region with fertile volcanic soil but plagued by
natural disasters due to its location in the direct path of typhoons
and its susceptibility to volcanic eruptions, mudslides, and
earthquakes. The region is still recovering from the summer 2006
Mount Mayon eruption and November 30, 2006 Typhoon Reming. The USG
provided over $350,000 for relief assistance to the region after the
typhoon. (Refs A and B) The USG also has well-established
development assistance programs in the Bicol region to address
long-term goals, including reduced poverty and improved coastal
resource management.

Enhancing Dairy Development

3. With USDA funding Land O'Lakes, Inc. is assisting the Philippine
National Dairy Authority (NDA) in expanding local dairy production
in Camarines Sur. This public-private partnership provides
opportunities for enhanced local production and business investment
in the Bicol region. USDA has provided approximately $18 million in
support to dairy development and school milk feeding programs in the
Philippines since 2002. In 2006, USDA approved a Food for Progress
grant of $4 million to Land O'Lakes to expand dairy development and
school milk feeding programs.

4. The Ambassador visited a small farm and awarded the farm owner a
pregnant dairy heifer provided by Land O'Lakes. Using Food for
Progress funds, Land O'Lakes works with local dairy cooperatives in
the Camarines Sur province in the Bicol region. Most of the members
of these cooperatives own no more than five dairy animals. Land
O'Lakes has distributed 1700 heifers, specially bred to thrive in
tropical climates and survive typhoon conditions, in the
Philippines. Ambassador Kenney observed the next step in the dairy
production process by visiting a small USDA-funded dairy processing
plant built to increase local dairy production. This goes
hand-in-hand with making dairy production more community-based, as
the farmers may sell fresh milk produced by their heifers to the
local production plant, keeping their product local and maintaining
the quality of the milk. USDA has funded seven dairy processing
plants throughout the Philippines. Farmers told the Ambassador that
their monthly earnings have increased to about 6 thousand pesos
($120) per month, from 100 to 200 pesos ($2 to $4) previously.

5. The School Milk Feeding Program represents the final stage in
dairy production--providing dairy products to the schoolchildren.
This program is designed to introduce milk to children's' diets and
improve nutrition. The Ambassador visited an elementary school and
talked to schoolchildren who are receiving a USDA-funded morning
meal consisting of milk and a fortified biscuit. Since 2002, USDA
support has provided milk to more than 250,000 Filipino
schoolchildren. Teachers reported that the children are more
attentive and ready to learn after their morning meal. Luis Ray
Villafuerte, Governor of Camarines Sur, and Arthur Yap, Philippine
Secretary of Agriculture were present at these events and were

enthusiastic about the success of the programs.

Improving Livelihoods

6. The Ambassador observed a USAID-sponsored ecotourism program
firsthand by swimming with whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon
Province. Whale sharks spend five months a year in Donsol waters.
Since their publicized appearance in Donsol in 1998 the whale sharks
have attracted the interest of both international tourists and
poachers. In 2003 USAID awarded a $368,000 grant to the World
Wildlife Fund (WWF) to implement the Community-Based Ecotourism and
Coastal Resources Management project in Donsol. The program focuses
on ecotourism, coastal law enforcement, and best fisheries
practices. Since 2002 over 8,000 tourists have participated in
controlled whale shark interactions and Donsol has earned over 4.2
million pesos ($87,500) in registration fees and payments for other
services. During the Ambassador's visit, tourists from the U.S.,
Russia, Denmark, Australia and the Philippines were present at local
resorts. Ecotourism has provided a profitable alternative to

MANILA 00001089 002 OF 002

illegal fishing and has led to a decrease in terrorist activity.
Many whale shark guides and boat operators are former members of the
New People's Army. Recognizing the importance of the whale sharks
to the local economy, these guides also guard the animals from
poachers. The ecotourism program has strong local government
support. The Mayor of Donsol discussed how the community has
benefited from the program but lamented the challenges posed by
continued illegal fishing in the area.

7. The USAID/World Wildlife Fund project also includes coastal
resource management programs in communities around Donsol.
Ambassador Kenney visited a mangrove conservation and mudcrab
fattening project in Barangay Sebago, a small, impoverished village
located adjacent to mangroves. Using USAID funds the World Wildlife
Fund established the Mangrove Management Council, composed of local
residents and leaders. Members received training in mangrove
conservation and techniques for raising mudcrabs in the mangroves.
The mudcrabs are edible and easily sold to nearby
communities--making them a profitable and renewable resource. In
January 2007 members began raising mudcrabs in the nearby mangroves
and the first harvest is expected in May 2007. Since the business
depends on the health of the mangrove ecosystem, villagers now have
a direct interest in its protection. Ambassador Kenney highlighted
the successes of these programs in improving the livelihoods of
people in the Bicol region during a television interview shown on
national television.


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