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Cablegate: Philippines: Positive Response to U.S. Initiatives

VZCZCXRO1152
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHPB
DE RUEHML #0329 0372220
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 062220Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9678
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM IMMEDIATE
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS MANILA 000329

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS, EAP/RSP (BLAIR HALL AND KEVIN SHIEVES),
AND S/CT (DARCY ANDERSON)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER RP ARF IO
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINES: POSITIVE RESPONSE TO U.S. INITIATIVES
ON ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM

REF: A. STATE 8005

B. 2007 MANILA 1614

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Poloffs met February 1 with Hans Siriban,
Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for Policy at the
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), to outline reftel points
regarding U.S. initiatives for the ASEAN Regional Forum
(ARF). Siriban was receptive to all U.S. initiatives, and
reported that at an ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting two days
earlier in Singapore, the mood had been "generally welcoming"
toward U.S. comments to Singapore's draft Review of ARF.
Siriban is optimistic that progress can be made on the U.S.
proposals at upcoming 2008 ASEAN meetings in Singapore and
Ottawa. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Per reftel instructions, Siriban was provided
beforehand with copies of relevant documents, including the
U.S. draft proposal for an ARF Counterterrorism and
Transnational Crime (CTTC) workplan, together with materials.
Siriban stated that it was the Philippine government's view
that there may be merit in the U.S. proposal to delink the
ASEAN and ARF Chairs, and that the topic had been flagged for
further discussion at an upcoming ASEAN Foreign Ministers
Retreat to be held in Singapore February 19-20. He went on
to explain that when ARF had been established in 1994, the
workload was not as heavy as today, and he added that
Philippines' experience as 2006 ASEAN Chair had shown the DFA
first hand what a burden it was to simultaneously chair the
ASEAN Regional Forum. Turning to the U.S. proposal for an
ARF Vision Statement, Siriban again opined that, given how
much the region had changed since ARF's 1994 concept paper,
an "update" was in order.

3. (SBU) Discussion turned to the U.S. proposal for a system
of vetted and coordinated workplans, similar to those of
other regional organizations, beginning with a pilot workplan
on Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC). Siriban
expressed the view that the workplans were a good idea
compared to ASEAN's present ad hoc approach to such issues.
He outlined how, during its 2006 term as ASEAN Chair, the
Philippines had tried to assemble and organize frameworks
summarizing all of ASEAN's past resolutions, pronouncements,
and proposals on various subjects, and that developing
workplans in the place of such summaries represented a
natural evolution. He added that he looked forward to
working with the idea and refining it. Siriban reflected
that the earlier U.S. approach, which proposed the
designation of "lead shepherds" and a limited number of
cosponsors in each work area, had suffered from the
appearance of exclusivity. Although Siriban conceded that
including all 26 ARF members as cosponsors of each workplan
would make them unwieldy, he opined that the solution might
involve an enhanced ARF Secretariat (as envisioned by the
U.S.) taking on some workplan functions.
KENNEY

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