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Cablegate: "Mindanao Still Open for Business"

VZCZCXRO6057
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHML #2074/01 2490953
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 050953Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1746
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002074

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KISL KPAO RP EAID
SUBJECT: "Mindanao still open for business"

1. (U) SUMMARY. Signifying the USG's continuing commitment to
economic prosperity and stability for Mindanao, the Acting Deputy
Chief of Mission (A/DCM) visited the Mindanao province of Zamboanga
del Norte where he: delivered the keynote address at the annual
Mindanao Business Conference; formally turned-over a computer
assistance package to a rural high school; and received a briefing
from local leaders on their avian influenza prevention strategy. END
SUMMARY.

2. (U) Despite being, historically, one of the poorest provinces in
the Philippines, Zamboanga del Norte's economic fortunes have been
improving over the past few years. The province's successes are due
to its relative peacefulness, a small but growing domestic tourism
industry, sizable USG and other donor assistance efforts, and the
fact that the principal roll-on, roll-off freight port in the
province, in its capital city of Dipolog, has become a key link in
the GRP's "Strong Republic Nautical Highway System." This has led to
dramatic increases in cargo and passenger traffic.

----------------------------------------
17th Annual Mindanao Business Conference
----------------------------------------

3. (U) Held this year in Dipolog City, the Mindanao Business
Conference is the largest annual gathering of Mindanao's business
community. Some 400 business leaders attended the Conference. The
Conference serves as a venue for discussing and exploring business
and trade opportunities, sharing new developments and best
practices, and discussing/proposing ways of fostering a more
competitive and attractive business environment in Mindanao. The
Dipolog City Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) was the host and
principal organizer of this year's conference. As it has done for
most of the previous annual conferences, the USG provided some
technical and financial support for this year's Mindanao Business
Conference.

4. (U) Delivering the keynote address before a large audience of
regional business and political leaders, the A/DCM emphasized the
USG's continued support for peace and development in Mindanao and
its intention to continue its close and enduring partnerships with
local and national government agencies, NGO's, and private
businesses. In collaboration with these partners, the USG has
supported a wide-ranging assistance effort in Mindanao over the past
several years with numerous projects aimed at health and education
improvement, better environmental management, improved governance,
infrastructure, and expansion of economic opportunity.

--------------------------------------------
USAID Connects Rural High School to Internet
--------------------------------------------

5. (U) Illustrating the USG's commitment to improving education,
the A/DCM formally turned over a computer assistance package
including 10 computers and a satellite dish needed for internet
access to a nearby rural high school. The assistance was provided
under USAID's Computer Literacy and Internet Connection (CLIC)
program. The CLIC program has thus far introduced computer and
internet education into almost 700 high schools in Mindanao, in both
urban and rural areas, helping to ensure that young people in
Mindanao will be able to compete in a globalizing world. Partnering
with the Philippine government, school administrators, and
parent-teacher organizations (who assume responsibility for
maintaining the computers and paying the monthly internet charges),
USAID aims to add hundreds of additional schools to the CLIC network
in the next few years.

-------------------------------------------
Working Towards AI Preparedness in Mindanao
-------------------------------------------

6. (U) The A/DCM attended a USAID sponsored avian influenza (AI)
briefing in a rural municipality near the conference site as part of
a pilot project that trains citizens to look for possible signs of
AI and to alert local health officials. While the Philippines
remains one of three southeast Asian countries free of AI, USAID and
its local partners assist vulnerable regions and communities to
provide public awareness and community outreach on prevention
strategies.

--------------
Media Outreach
--------------

7. (U) The A/DCM's visit generated positive media attention both
regionally and nationally. During stops at a local radio station and
during a taped TV interview, the A/DCM discussed USG efforts in the
region with regard to development and security matters. Several
major national daily newspapers noted the USG's attendance at the
Conference and praised the USG's commitment to the development of

MANILA 00002074 002 OF 002


Mindanao.

KENNEY

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