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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Price's Visit to The

VZCZCXRO1404
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2626/01 3331010
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281010Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2550
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 6595
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY PRIORITY 0083
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG PRIORITY 5002
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002626

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OREP PGOV PINS PREL RP CH VM
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR CODEL PRICE'S VISIT TO THE
PHILIPPINES

REF: STATE 121421

MANILA 00002626 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Embassy warmly welcomes CODEL Price to
the Philippines! The relationship and spirit of partnership
between the United States and the Philippines are strong.
U.S. interests in this major non-NATO ally center on
strengthening democracy, fostering economic growth, fighting
terrorism, and providing superb services to our American and
Filipino publics. The U.S. is the Philippines' largest
trading partner, the largest investor, and the largest donor
of grant foreign assistance. During your visit, you will be
briefed by the Mission Country Team and meet with Philippine
officials including the head of the National Intelligence
Coordination Agency (NICA) and the Speaker of the House of
Representatives, and you will also visit the American
Cemetery in Manila. Our entire team looks forward to making
your visit productive and useful. END SUMMARY

----------
BACKGROUND
----------

2. (U) The Philippines, with almost 90 million people, has
one of the fastest-growing populations in Asia. Metropolitan
Manila, home to at least 12 million people, is the largest
city in a country made up of over 7,000 mainly mountainous
islands. Literacy (94%) remains high, although the standard
of public education and other government services is weak.
Filipinos are mainly Roman Catholic (83%) or otherwise
Christian (10%) with a Muslim minority (6%) in the southern
island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, and in Manila.
Approximately 38 percent of Filipinos earn less than $2 per
day, with a much higher percentage of Muslims in Mindanao
eking out a living below this threshold.

--------------------
PHILIPPINES POLITICS
--------------------

3. (SBU) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a forceful
politician who has faced a series of challenges to her rule,
including unsuccessful impeachment efforts and low-level
military coup attempts. She continues to attempt to initiate
her political reform agenda while battling economic
challenges. The President's political position improved last
year after elections gave her allies a large majority in the
House of Representatives, decreasing any real impeachment
threat. Opponents continue to agitate in the Congress and
filed yet another impeachment complaint against Arroyo on
October 13, but this motion too faces almost certain defeat.
Arroyo's term ends in 2010, and her Vice President and
several senators are already lining up support to succeed her.


------------------------
COUNTERTERRORISM EFFORTS
------------------------

4. (SBU) Three U.S.-designated terrorist organizations are
active and dangerous in the Philippines, despite significant
military and law enforcement successes against them over the
past two years. Parts of the Southern Philippines'
Muslim-populated regions remain a sanctuary for terrorists
who are responsible for bombings in the Philippines and
Indonesia and kidnapping and killing of Americans and
Filipinos. Much of the work of this Mission's 30 USG
agencies is focused on these parts of the Southern
Philippines. The major thrust of U.S. development assistance
is targeted on conflict-affected areas of the Southern
Philippines, through USAID, to help reduce support for
terrorists. A U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force
(JSOTF-P) of several hundred personnel provides direct
support to the Philippine Armed Forces in key locations in
the Muslim South, sharing intelligence, advice, and
assistance. President Arroyo is justly proud that the
Philippine military has scored successes against several top
terrorist leaders in its focused military operations.
Equally impressive are the Philippine military's success in
separating local populations from insurgents through
extensive civil-military and humanitarian activities.
Separately, the New People's Army of the Communist Party
continues to extort, bomb, and attack remote police and
military outposts throughout the Philippines.

MANILA 00002626 002.2 OF 003

-----------------
HOMELAND SECURITY
-----------------

5. (SBU) All USG agencies play important roles in Homeland
Security at the U.S. Mission in the Philippines. We are
proud of extraordinarily close synergies among the many law
enforcement, intelligence, political-military, and economic
agencies represented at this Mission. Key agency heads will
meet with you after our overall Mission brief. The three
Department of Homeland Security agencies represented in
Manila have prepared short presentations of their work in the
Philippines.

-------------------------------------
PEACE PROCESS IN SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES
-------------------------------------

6. (SBU) A key element of our counter-terrorism agenda, and
our support for a stronger, more outward-looking Philippines,
is supporting the peace process with Muslim insurgents in the
Southern Philippines. As peace talks aimed at greater local
autonomy for Muslims progress, sanctuaries for terrorists
diminish. Those talks came to an impasse this summer when a
key territorial agreement was ruled unconstitutional, and the
government and Muslim insurgents are still working to revive
the process. Limited fighting in recent months has resulted
in thousands of displaced persons living in temporary camps.
While the U.S. has no official role in the peace talks, we
continue to urge both sides to return to negotiations as soon
as possible so displaced persons can return to their families
and livelihoods.

7. (U) Development assistance from the U.S., complemented by
increasing support from the World Bank, Japan, Australia, and
others has established growing zones of peace and private
sector-led growth in the Mindanao region of the Southern
Philippines. About 60% of USAID's annual development
assistance is channeled to conflict-affected areas of
Mindanao to promote economic opportunities, build
infrastructure, and carry out health, renewable energy,
environment, education, local governance, and livelihood
programs. These programs attack the conditions of poverty
that provide breeding grounds for terrorists. USAID
coordinates its activities with the U.S. military's Civil
Affairs programs. Our exchange programs for students and
community leaders offer a chance to interact with responsible
and moderate Muslims. In response to the growing numbers of
persons displaced by the government-rebel conflict in central
Mindanao, the U.S. has announced an additional USD 2.5
million in assistance for displaced persons in the past four
months provided through NGOs, including the donation of 1,500
tons of rice to the UN World Food Programme, the building of
sanitation and water infrastructure to meet needs at crowded
displaced persons camps, the provision of emergency health
services, and the conducting of emergency health training for
local and regional officials.


--------------------------------------------- --
HUMAN RIGHTS: COMBATING EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS
--------------------------------------------- --

8. (SBU) President Arroyo has consistently expressed her
commitment to resolving the complex and longstanding problem
of extrajudicial killings (EJKs). The number of
extrajudicial killings decreased dramatically in 2007 and
2008, but more still needs to be done, and the Embassy
continues to press the issue at the highest levels of the
Philippine government, while redirecting U.S. assistance to
support government efforts. While many of these deaths and
disappearances are more likely attributable to local disputes
than to military or police action, it is clear that the
government needs to do more to ensure that these crimes are
fully investigated and that responsible parties -- whether or
not they are connected to military or police -- are brought
to justice. The problem is closely related to frustration
with a judicial system that is inefficient and strained
beyond its capacity.

9. (SBU) The government has responded with a police task
force to investigate the killings, and the government also

MANILA 00002626 003.2 OF 003


rejuvenated the Presidential Committee on Human Rights,
established an Armed Forces Human Rights office to
investigate allegations, and allocated additional funding for
the Commission on Human Rights. The Embassy has supported
all of these activities with training, assistance, and expert
exchanges and is looking to broaden our support to
confronting extrajudicial killings with both Philippine
military and police personnel.

-------------------
ECONOMICS AND TRADE
-------------------

10. (SBU) The U.S. is the Philippines' largest trading
partner, with over $17 billion in two-way trade in 2007. The
U.S. is also the largest investor here, with $6.6 billion in
equity. After topping seven percent in 2007, Philippine
Gross Domestic Product growth is expected to slow in 2008, to
below five percent. The Philippine banking system is
relatively sound and not heavily exposed to risks from
current global financial turmoil. Nevertheless, Philippine
companies already are announcing layoffs and economic pain
from recession is mounting. If the global downturn is
prolonged, the impact on poverty in the Philippines, where
about half the population live on $2/day or less, will be
very important and could have serious implications for
security policy.
JONES

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