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Cablegate: New Partnerships in Remote Islands Pave the Way For

VZCZCXRO8940
OO RUEHCHI RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHPB
DE RUEHML #2447/01 3041031
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 301031Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2210
INFO RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHZU/ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002447

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS
DEPT PASS TO USAID

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM RP
SUBJECT: NEW PARTNERSHIPS IN REMOTE ISLANDS PAVE THE WAY FOR
PROSPERITY, PEACE

1. SUMMARY: The DCM traveled October 21 to Tawi-Tawi -- an island
province at the tip of Mindanao's terrorist-afflicted Sulu
Archipelago -- and inaugurated four projects exemplifying the
strength and diversity of Philippine-U.S. partnerships. The Embassy
sent an interagency team including USAID Director, Defense Attache,
Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines officials, and a
Mindanao-focused Public Affairs officer to attend the ribbon-cutting
events, where the DCM underscored that the USG remains steadfast in
supporting collaborative projects in Mindanao. The Philippine
Deputy Advisor to the President on the Peace Process Nabil Tan and
Philippine Armed Forces Deputy Commander for Western Mindanao
Command Brigadier General Ramirez joined the Embassy group, which
Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali and Bongao Mayor Albert Que
greeted at the airport. The DCM's interviews and appearance with
officials received broad regional and national coverage on radio,
print, and television. END SUMMARY.

BRINGING DISTANT TAWI-TAWI CLOSER

2. Tawi-Tawi is a collection of islands lying within motorboat
distance to Sabah, Malaysia. It is a sparsely populated, poor
province that is a traditional transit point for terrorists and
smugglers operating in the Malaysia-Indonesia-Philippines region.
The inter-island and cross-national barter trade has been
historically very active and includes smuggling of black market
goods. Though underdeveloped, Tawi-Tawi has significant potential
for growth in legitimate export businesses due to healthy fishing
and seaweed industries and because it has suffered less conflict in
the recent past than its neighbors in Basilan and Jolo. The four
projects visited create economic opportunities for all residents of
Tawi-Tawi, open this smuggling point to the outside world, and
demonstrate the USG's long-term commitment to peace and prosperity
in the Philippines.

INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS PROVIDE PATHS TO PROSPERITY

3. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Sanga Sanga Airport, the
DCM remarked that the aim of the joint project between USAID and the
provincial government was to widen the runway in order to land
planes as big as a Boeing 737, which would facilitate tourism and
the growth of exports. Governor Sahali lauded the continued
friendship and commitment of the USG and the American people. The
group reviewed the engineering plans, spoke to the media, and
finally donned hardhats and mounted a bulldozer at the end of the
runway for cameras.

4. At a separate event, the party inaugurated the Sanga Sanga Road
Upgrade, which is part of a major USAID-Philippine government
collaboration called the Tawi-Tawi Bridge-Road Partnership Project.
Once the project is finished, a series of roads and bridges will
link the most populous settlements of Tawi-Tawi to the Sanga Sanga
Airport in Bongao. Excited townspeople and media received the DCM,
Governor and Mayor, who spoke to the crowd, celebrating the joint
initiative's success in leveraging commitments that will
dramatically improve the quality of life in Tawi-Tawi. The DCM
underscored that the arterial road, like the airport upgrade, will
provide the groundwork for better access to markets and tourism,
which support not only prosperity, but peace as well.

BUILDING SCHOOLS AND TRUST

5. The DCM and party traveled with Undersecretary Tan, Armed Forces
of the Philippines (AFP) Brigadier General Ramirez, and Governor
Sahali by boat, operated by U.S. Joint Special Operations Task
Force, to the remote town of Lapid Lapid where local officials and
former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Commander Jum Dial
greeted them. The DCM cut a ribbon on a school building that had
been entirely refurbished by U.S. and Philippine Seabees (naval
construction battalions) and other military personnel. BGen Ramirez
noted that in Tawi-Tawi, as elsewhere in Mindanao, U.S. and
Philippine personnel were cooperating smoothly and winning the trust
of residents where terrorists and insurgent groups previously had
significant influence. The DCM thanked and commended the Philippine
and U.S. military personnel for working together and making
remarkable progress, for which the assembled townspeople expressed
deep appreciation.

6. The DCM inaugurated another new school building at the Panglima
Arasia Elementary School, which was completed thanks to an
innovative USAID-Petron Foundation partnership that includes
participation from Habitat for Humanity and other civil society
groups. A jubilant crowd braved sweltering sun to welcome the
Embassy team, and the DCM remarked that the American people were
pleased to offer their ongoing support for partnerships such as this
that combine public, private, and civil society resources. The
project aims to build 60 such new classrooms and refurbish 480
others. As he did at each event, the DCM emphasized that the
project was a joint effort designed to advance peace and prosperity

MANILA 00002447 002 OF 002


in the Philippines.


Visit Embassy Manila's Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov

KENNEY

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