Search

 

Cablegate: Restrictions On U.S.-Philippine Hydrographic

VZCZCXRO8966
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0718/01 0791003
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 191003Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0208
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE IMMEDIATE 7356
RUENAAA/SECNAV WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHHMHAH/USCINCPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000718

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL RP
SUBJECT: RESTRICTIONS ON U.S.-PHILIPPINE HYDROGRAPHIC
SURVEYS HAMPER EFFECTIVENESS

REF: MANILA 0141

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Since its inception in 2003, the U.S.-
Philippine Hydrographic Cooperation Program has proven both
strategically and commercially valuable to U.S. and
Philippine interests. Using advanced sonar technology to map
shipping lanes, harbors, and ports throughout the
Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, this
program is crucial to facilitating port visits of U.S. Navy
vessels and supports civil military operations throughout the
country by the U.S. and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
At the same time, for a U.S. investment of $30 million, the
surveys will yield an estimated $300 million in maritime
commerce benefits to the Philippines, making it an important
U.S. economic development tool for the Philippines. The
survey program was quickly altered earlier this year after a
incident involving a Philippine maritime police patrol boat
firing warning shots at a U.S. survey vessel in late January.
As part of an intensive effort to avoid similar incidents,
the Mission has actively assisted the Philippines in
developing and implementing a comprehensive notification
process at the national, provincial, and local levels to
facilitate communications among Philippine security agencies
and ensure no further misunderstandings. Since the January
incident, 7th Fleet instituted new guidelines restricting
U.S. vessels to no less than four nautical miles from the
Philippine coast when conducting survey operations. These
new restrictions severely hamper the original intent of this
survey program, prohibiting it from surveying critical
coastal areas that are essential to port calls made by U.S.
vessels and mapping waterways with strategic commercial
value. Mission recommends that this joint program be
restored to its original operational guidelines as soon as
possible. END SUMMARY.

MUTUAL BENEFITS
---------------

2. (U) Since its inception in 2003, the U.S.-Philippine
Hydrographic Cooperation Program has played a vital role in
U.S. - Philippine military cooperation. This program uses
advanced sonar technology to map shipping lanes, harbors, and
ports throughout the Philippines, an archipelago of more than
7,000 islands. The Philippine-U.S. Hydrographic Cooperation
Program became a more formal program after being signed as
part of the Mutual Defense Board in 2006 by U.S. Naval
Meteorology and Oceanographic Office and the Philippine
National Mapping and Resource Information Authority. Since
2003, the USG has invested $30 million in this joint program.
In the last two years, vessels have collected data in most
of the Philippines territorial waters north of Luzon and the
San Bernardino and Mindoro Straits. Earlier this year,
surveys began in the Verde Island Strait and Calavite
Passage. Future survey operations include the Balabac and
Surigao Straits, the Sibutu Passage, and the Sulu Sea.

3. (U) Benefits derived from these joint survey operations to
both the U.S. and the Philippines are significant. These
joint surveys afford the Philippines the ability to update
nautical charts that, in some cases, use data more than 80
years old. Such dated information can lead to faulty channel
readings and inaccurate island locations, imperiling
navigation. New charts, surveyed to modern standards,
provide U.S. ships with the information necessary to ensure
safe navigation in Philippine waters and to facilitate U.S.
Navy port calls in remote locations (reftel), many of which
are in areas where U.S. presence is welcome, but not common.
The charts are shared with the Philippine authorities and
commercial shippers, which leads to lower port and shipping
costs. The prominent International Hydrographic Organization
estimates that each dollar spent on nautical surveys produces
a tenfold return on investment through increased maritime
activities. Under that estimate, the surveys conducted to
date should yield over $300 million in maritime commerce
benefits to the Philippines.

SURVEY TEAM SECURITY A PRIORITY
-------------------------------

4. (U) On January 25, a small, unmarked vessel from the
hydrographic survey team had shots fired in its direction by
a local Philippine maritime police patrol boat while
conducting a survey off the coast of Mindoro Oriental
Province in central Philippines. While no one was injured
during this incident, the 7th Fleet issued new operational

MANILA 00000718 002 OF 002


guidelines for survey vessels that altered the program from
its original mandate, which aimed to provide a comprehensive
navigational assessment of Philippine waters. The new
guidelines, implemented in an effort to ensure the safety of
U.S. personnel, severely limited the utility of the survey
program by prohibiting vessels from conducting surveys closer
than four nautical miles from the Philippine shoreline.

5. (U) The Philippines has been proactive in investigating
the January incident, and with the Mission's assistance, has
implemented multiple measures to minimize the chances of a
similar incident by promoting better communication within the
Philippine government and among its various law enforcement
organizations. Post believes the current restrictions on the
survey program, if not rescinded, could adversely affect U.S.
strategic interests by hindering the U.S. Navy's ability to
conduct accurate surveys of less-traveled channels, possibly
decreasing the number of ports which could be visited by U.S.
Navy vessels this year. At the same time, the restriction to
conducting surveys in deeper waters inhibits the collection
of data needed to create more precise navigational
information about vital Philippine sea lanes integral to
Philippine and international commerce.

COMMENT
-------

6. (U) Post firmly supports all measures aimed at
guaranteeing the safety of U.S. military and civilian
personnel, an issue the Ambassador regularly raises with
Philippine interlocutors. At all levels, the Mission is
working closely with Philippine agencies to ensure that the
proper procedures are in place to provide a secure
environment in which various assistance activities, including
the U.S.-Philippine Hydrographic Cooperation Program, can be
conducted. Post recommends that the survey program be
continued and restored to its original operational guidelines
in the near future.
KENNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC