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Cablegate: Ambassador Highlights U.S. Involvement in Mindanao

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #1281/01 1492342
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 282342Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0834
INFO RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS MANILA 001281

SENSITIVE
STATE FOR EAP/MTS
STATE FOR OES
STATE PASS USAID

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ECON EAID EAGR SENV MARR RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR HIGHLIGHTS U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN MINDANAO

REF: 07 MANILA 2422

1. (U) SUMMARY: On May 19 and 20, the Ambassador traveled to the
economically-booming Davao with the Agricultural Counselor, USAID
Mission Director, Joint U.S. Military Assistance Officer, and
econoff to spotlight our multifaceted engagement in Mindanao.
Visits to educational, environmental, and commercial projects
underscored the broad range of U.S. projects and interests. The
Ambassador had a productive meeting with the incoming regional
Philippine military commander. The visit received extensive
national and regional media coverage. END SUMMARY.

----------------------------------
EDUCATION OUTREACH IN MUSLIM AREAS
----------------------------------

2. (U) The Ambassador delivered the keynote address at an
Embassy-hosted dinner marking the start of the "My Community, Our
Earth" partnership. The $80,000 grant program from the Bureau of
Oceans, Science and Environment is administered by the Association
of American Geographers and provides technical training to 35 middle
and secondary school educators on the use of geographic information
systems (GIS) to support environmental education in Mindanao. Over
70 guests attended the dinner, including teachers and official
representatives from the local chamber of commerce; the Muslim
Business Forum President; the Regional Director of Muslim Affairs;
the Department of Trade and Industry Secretary of the Autonomous
Region in Muslim Mindanao, and the Department's Bureau of Oceans,
Science and Environment. Over a twelve-month period, the program
will develop and distribute innovative educational resources to
support eight student-led projects to address environmental issues.


--------------------------------------------- -
INAUGURATION OF NEW USAID PROGRAM HEADQUARTERS
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (U) The Ambassador, together with the USAID Director, inaugurated
the Growth with Equity in Mindanao Program's new headquarters in
Davao City. This USAID program is in its third phase of
implementation, with a wide range of activities intended to expand
economic opportunity and strengthen peace in Mindanao and the Sulu
archipelago. The Ambassador noted that partnerships with the
Philippine government, local government units, and the private
sector had been instrumental in creating new economic opportunities
and improving the quality of life across Mindanao. The Ambassador
also lauded the program's efforts to ensure that the people in the
conflict-affected areas of Mindanao receive the benefits of U.S.
government assistance.

-------------------------------------
EASTERN MINDANAO COMMAND (EASTMINCOM)
-------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Major General Armando Cunanan and his staff briefed the
Ambassador and a JUSMAG representative at the Eastern Mindanao
Command (EASTMINCOM) headquarters. Although it was his first day in
command, Cunanan was delighted to host his visitors. He explained
that EASTMINCOM's main focus is on the fight against the New
People's Army (NPA) guerillas while the neighboring Western Mindanao
Command (WESTMINCOM) focuses primarily on threats from the Abu Sayaf
Group (ASG) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). General Cunanan's staff
officers said that the military is on track to achieve its goal of
defeating the NPA by 2010, and Cunanan added that the NPA and other
terrorist groups could be defeated only through a combination of
military operations, good governance, and respect for human rights.
He thanked the Ambassador for continued U.S. support in these areas.


------------------------------------
MEETING WITH MINDANAO PEACE ACTIVIST
------------------------------------

5. (U) The Ambassador met privately with Mary Ann Arnado, a
Davao-based attorney and peace activist with the Bantay Ceasefire, a
civil society group monitoring the 2003 ceasefire between the GRP
and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao. As one of
the leading peace activists in Mindanao, and as an observer at the
peace talks, Arnado talks to stakeholders on all sides. While the
May 18 appointment of newly-retired general Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
as presidential adviser on the peace process has led some observers
to publicly question the Arroyo administration's seriousness about
peace negotiations with Moro separatists, Arnado said she is keeping
an open mind. Expressing enthusiasm for a U.S. role in the peace
process, Arnado stressed that there is no substitute for continued
strong Embassy engagement.

--------------------------------------
VISIT TO MARS COCOA DEVELOPMENT CENTER
--------------------------------------

6. (U) The Ambassador and the Agricultural Counselor toured the Mars
Cocoa Development Center (MCDC), located 30 kilometers from Davao
City. Founded by the U.S. candy and confectionary company Mars,
Inc., the MCDC provides training to farmers to help them establish
and expand cacao production in Mindanao. As part of USDA's SUCCESS
Alliance Program, the center provides training for cacao farmers on
breeding, good agricultural practices, integrated pest management,
post harvest practices, and cacao quality control. The Philippines
produces 6,000 tons of dried cacao beans annually but imports 30,000
tons for domestic use alone. By increasing domestic production and
improving crop quality, domestic and export markets for cacao have
the potential to create expanded opportunities for small-scale local
farmers.

------------------------------------
VISIT TO THE PHILIPPINE EAGLE CENTER
------------------------------------

7. (U) The Ambassador toured the Philippine Eagle Center, located 45
minutes from Davao City. The center is home to 32 Philippine
Eagles, 16 of which are captive-bred. The Philippine Eagle is one
of the largest eagles in the world. Unfortunately, it is also one of
the world's rarest and most critically endangered, with about 500
pairs remaining on four islands in the country. Although the
center's exhibits are used primarily to help educate the public on
conservation, the facility is also considered a major tourist
attraction in the region. The center is operated by the Philippine
Eagle Foundation, an NGO regarded as the country's premiere
organization for the conservation of the Philippine Eagle and other
endangered birds of prey. The foundation received a $20,000 grant
from USAID in 2003, and it is now sustained through donations from
corporations and private donors.

-------------------------------
CLEAN AIR YOUTH ALLIANCE LAUNCH
-------------------------------

8. (U) The Ambassador led the launch of the Clean Air Youth Alliance
Davao Chapter, a group of youth organizations promoting clean air.
An initiative of USAID's Energy and Clean Air Project, the Clean Air
Youth Alliance has other local chapters in Metro Manila,
Baguio-Benguet, and Cebu with approximately 10,000 members from 34
youth organizations. During the program, the Ambassador turned over
an opacimeter, a device used to measure vehicular emissions, to the
Davao City government represented by Vice Mayor Sara Duterte,
daughter of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. USAID is providing emissions
testing equipment to local government partners to support their
emissions reduction program.

-----------------------------------------
INTERVIEWS WITH BROADCAST AND PRINT MEDIA
-----------------------------------------

9. (U) The Ambassador gave a live interview on the ABS-CBN TV
morning news and variety program "Good Morning Mindanao," and she
was interviewed live on the Bombo Radyo Davao public affairs news
show that also linked in regional stations from Cebu, Baguio,
Cotabato, Naga, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Tacloban, Zamboanga and
Manila to participate. An additional 12 stations broadcasted the
interview as well as a simulcast online. The interview was replayed
nationwide on the evening news show. The Ambassador also
interviewed with the Sun Star, the top daily newspaper in Davao.
The local media covered the Ambassador's participation at a ceremony
at the Ateneo de Davao University marking the opening of the Clean
Air Youth Alliance and the launching of the USG funded Mindanao
teachers' workshop. Throughout the two-day visit to Davao, the
Ambassador's comments highlighted U.S. engagement and development
activities in Mindanao and announced the May 29 arrival of the
hospital ship USNS Mercy to conduct a two-week medical mission in
the region.

KENNEY

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