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Cablegate: Philippines Responds to Tragedy in Burma

VZCZCXRO8209
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1105 1290755
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 080755Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0635
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS MANILA 001105

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL RP BM
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINES RESPONDS TO TRAGEDY IN BURMA

REF: A. MANILA 690

B. MANILA 654

1. SUMMARY: In the wake of the devastating destruction
wrought May 2-3 by Cyclone Nargis in Burma, the Philippine
government and the country's Red Cross affiliate are moving
to offer assistance, while national media have called on the
ruling Burmese military junta to cease its resistance to
international relief efforts as the humanitarian crisis
worsens for cyclone survivors. Philippine protesters at the
Burmese Embassy in Manila have underscored calls for the
junta to allow unrestricted entry into Burma of international
relief. END SUMMARY.

2. In a May 7 statement from Malacanang Palace, Executive
Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Philippine President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo has directed Foreign Secretary Alberto
Romulo and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to send a
contingent of doctors and medical assistants to Burma.
Ermita outlined that the Department of Health was already in
communication with Burmese authorities in order to determine
which medicines were needed most critically, and he indicated
that the medical team and its supplies would depart for Burma
within 48 hours.

3. The Philippine Senate on May 6 unanimously passed a
resolution expressing its sympathy and solidarity with the
people of Burma. Foreign Secretary Romulo said that the
administration was likewise extending its sympathies to the
Burmese people, while dispelling fears that any Philippine
overseas workers had been killed or injured. Philippine
National Red Cross (PNRC) Chair Senator Richard Gordon
announced May 7 that the PNRC would dispatch aid to Burmese
storm victims, and he called on Filipinos to look beyond
national, religious, and racial boundaries to help the Red
Cross alleviate suffering in Burma.

4. An editorial in the leading daily Philippine Star
highlighted the scope of the calamity, and was sharply
critical of the Burmese junta's inability to deal with the
tragedy. The paper cited how the regime has built an army of
400,000 that, while widely employed in the brutal repression
of pro-democracy forces, lacked emergency supplies, mobile
hospitals, boats, and other basic requirements for disaster
relief. The editorial went on to point out that the junta's
years of isolationism, coupled with its lack of emphasis on
social services and community institutions, would intensify
the scale of the disaster and lead to more deaths as the days
dragged on.

5. Protesters marching outside the Burmese Embassy in
Manila's upscale Makati area demanded that Burma postpone the
junta's planned constitutional referendum, and permit
international relief workers unfettered entry into Burma and
access to storm-ravaged areas. Spokesperson Egoy Bans of the
Free Burma Coalition decried the ruling junta's preoccupation
with the referendum, even as those who survived the cyclone
struggled to stay alive in the absence of potable water,
food, and shelter.
KENNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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