Cablegate: Scenesetter for Codel Reyes


DE RUEHML #2827/01 2290938
O 170938Z AUG 07






E.O. 12958: N/A


STATE 107079

1. (SBU) Chairman Reyes and Members of the Delegation, a warm
welcome to the Philippines! The relationship and spirit of
partnership between the United States and the Philippines are
strong. Your visit comes at a time when the Philippine military is
still mourning the loss of soldiers in Mindanao while bravely
fighting terrorism. Your delegation's condolences would help cement
our spirit of partnership. The unique bond shared between U.S. and
Philippine veterans further strengthens our ties, as the memory of
our partnership in World War II resonates here. 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 foreign assistance.

2. (SBU) During your visit, you will meet with senior members of the
Philippine government and Congress, and U.S. business, to reinforce
our strong bilateral ties, as well as pay tribute to the dead and
missing from World War II immortalized at the American Cemetery.
You will travel to Mindanao to see first hand our joint
counterterrorism efforts. Our entire team looks forward to making
your visit productive and useful. End Summary.


3. (U) The Philippines, with almost 90 million people, has one of
the fastest-growing populations in Asia. Metro 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 declining. Filipinos are mainly Roman Catholic (83%) or

otherwise Christian (10%) with a small Muslim minority (6%) based in
Mindanao. Approximately 40 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.


4. (SBU) Philippine political life is free-wheeling, centered
primarily on the personal charisma of individual political leaders,
and largely oligarchic, with most wealth and political power
concentrated among a few influential families. Then-Vice President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the Presidency in 2001 after a
"people power" movement swept out her predecessor. She has regained
her footing after a series of challenges to her leadership,
including an unsuccessful impeachment efforts in 2005 and 2006 --
based on accusations of vote rigging in 2004 elections -- and an
alleged coup plot that led to her week-long declaration of a "State
of National Emergency" in February 2006.

5. (SBU) Midterm elections in May left the Senate still in
opposition hands, while the President's allies increased their hold
on both the House of Representatives and local government. While
the threat of impeachment has now been decisively removed by
overwhelming control of the House, personality-driven politics
remain visceral as presidential hopefuls in the Senate are already
campaigning for the 2010 presidential election. We fully expect
President Arroyo to complete her term in 2010. The rancorous
political atmosphere will complicate her efforts to establish a
legacy, which she has focused on the economy and jobs,
infrastructure, and seeking stability and peace on Mindanao.


6. (U) The U.S. remains the Philippines' largest trading partner,
with over $17.3 billion in two-way merchandise trade. Major U.S.
exports include electronics and agriculture. The U.S. is also the
largest investor here, with $6.6 billion in equity. This week Texas
Instruments broke ground on a $1 billion facility to produce
microchips at the former Clark Airbase, while AES, a Virginia-based
power generation and utility company, announced a $930 million
acquisition of a large coal-fired power plant through the
government's privatization scheme.

7. (U) The Philippine economy performed well in 2006, and has
continued to grow strongly in 2007. For the first half of the year,
the stock market charted new territory, and the peso soared against
the dollar on the back of respectable export growth and a surge in
remittances by overseas Filipinos. However, both the stock market
and the peso have slipped slightly during the worldwide financial
turbulence of the past month. The government has attacked its
budget deficit over the past four years through a combination of
expenditure restraint and tax increases, and has begun to reduce its
foreign debt. There nonetheless remain substantial weaknesses in
the government's ability to collect taxes, and much remains to be
accomplished on the economic reform agenda, particularly on
improving the investment climate. The Arroyo administration has an
impressive agenda -- privatize the electric sector, build
infrastructure, increase funding for education, liberalize civil
aviation, reduce business red tape -- but is moving timidly on most
of these initiatives. Embassy Manila is a strong advocate for U.S.
business interests through our Economic Section, the Foreign
Commercial Service, and the Foreign Agricultural Service.

8. (SBU) Corruption and restrictions on foreign investment shield
powerful local interests who thus maintain their privileged market
positions and their increasing wealth. Well-functioning "special
economic zones" (including former U.S. bases at Clark and Subic) in
which most foreign investment is harbored demonstrate that the
government can implement the policies necessary to compete globally.
Many observers believe President Arroyo's best chance for a lasting
legacy would be in implementing the economic reforms she knows could
make a real contribution to the prosperity of her people, while
establishing greater peace in Mindanao.

9. (U) U.S.-Philippines development cooperation focuses on economic
growth, governance, health, education, and the environment. The
major thrust of our development assistance is in conflict-affected
areas of Mindanao. Along with USAID, USDA and the Peace Corps play
an important role in promoting socio-economic progress.


10. (SBU) Three U.S.-designated terrorist organizations are active
and dangerous in the Philippines, despite significant military
success against them over the past year. Parts of Muslim Mindanao
remain a sanctuary for terrorists who are responsible for bombings
in the Philippines and Indonesia and kidnapping and killing of
Americans and Filipinos. President Arroyo is justly proud that the
Philippine military has killed several top terrorist leaders in its
focused military operations. However, in recent weeks, the
Philippine military lost some forty soldiers in two clashes with
these terrorist and insurgent groups, including ten who were
beheaded on July 10. The Philippine military killed some thirty
people in response. The Philippine military has carefully avoided
restarting a more general conflict with Muslim insurgents (see
below). Improved operational readiness rates for aircraft and
vessels, casualty treatment, night helicopter medical evacuations,
and tactical field skills are directly attributable to U.S.
training, advice, and assistance. Equally impressive are the
military's successful efforts to help separate 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.


12. (SBU) Negotiations with the Muslim insurgency, under Malaysian
auspices, are making headway toward establishing a larger Muslim
political entity within the Philippines that would determine its own
governing structure. Once the territory of this entity is
determined, the challenge will be to bring together Mindanao's
diverse Muslim, Christian and native communities. We are pressing
for concrete progress on this complex agenda this year. Successful
peace in Mindanao would make the Philippines a stronger, more
outward looking partner, while also denying terrorists ungoverned

13. (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 Mindanao. 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.


14. (SBU) President Arroyo has taken several steps to address the
complex problem of unlawful killings. 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 connected to military or
police -- are brought to justice. The problem is closely related to
a judicial system which is strained beyond its capacity and
inefficient. The government has responded with a police task force
to investigate the killings and file charges, specially designated
courts to handle them, a rejuvenated Presidential Human Rights
Commission, a new Armed Forces Human Rights office to investigate
allegations, and additional funding for the Commission on Human
Rights. President Arroyo spoke out strongly on the issue in her
recent State of the Union address. Still, much more needs to be


15. (U) The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Manila Regional
Office and Outpatient Clinic are the VA's only full-service
facilities located in a foreign country. VA provides monetary
benefits to approximately 15,000 veterans and dependents in the
Philippines and provides health care to approximately 4,000 veterans
residing here. The VA operation in Manila has a sizeable economic
impact here, worth about $143.5 million in FY 2005. This figure
factors in monetary benefit payments, operating costs, and medical
equipment provided to the Philippine Government's Veterans Memorial
Medical Center. Due to the low standard of living in the
Philippines and the cultural preference to conduct business through
middlemen, claims fraud remains a significant challenge. While we
have success in identifying fraud, obtaining prosecutions through
the Philippine justice system is difficult.

16. (SBU) Filipino veterans have over the years challenged and
questioned what they perceive as lack of equality in the benefits
they receive as compared to those received by U.S. veterans of WWII
or those Filipino veterans residing in the U.S. This issue
continues to be the focus of intense lobbying by various Filipino
advocacy groups. Filipino veterans and their dependents enjoy a far
greater standard of living here than their ineligible counterparts,
many of whom receive benefits from the chronically in-debt
Philippine Veterans Affairs Office at the rate of approximately $100
per month.

17. (U) During your visit, you will honor the dead and missing from
World War II at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American
Cemetery and Memorial. The cemetery is the largest in area of the
cemeteries built and administered by the American Battle Monuments
Commission, occupying 152 acres of the former Fort William McKinley.
17,206 of our military Dead, including 3,744 burials of unknown
soldiers and 570 Philippine nationals, are buried at the cemetery.
Most of these soldiers lost their lives in defense of the
Philippines in 1941 and 1942 or in the long but victorious return of
the American forces in 1944.


18. (U) The Social Security Administration Division in Manila serves
as the hub for social security work for all the Embassies and
Consulates in the East Asia Pacific Region. The division currently
serves 41,000 beneficiaries and pays out over 25 million dollars
each month. In the Philippines alone, there are almost 20,000


19. (U) The Consular Section provides services (reports of birth,
passports, notarial and emergency support) to the approximately
130,000 Americans living in the Philippines as well as the
additional roughly 120,000 visiting the Philippines at any given
time. The Section issues about 60,000 immigrant visas a year,
including visas to large numbers of nurses, teachers, and physical
therapists. The Section sees almost 200,000 nonimmigrant visa
applicants annually, including large numbers of merchant mariners
and temporary seasonal workers.


20. (SBU) You may wish to use the following talking points in your
meetings with Philippine government officials and business leaders,
and in any public remarks:

-- The Philippines is a committed partner in the vital effort to
fight terrorism and secure peace and prosperity for our two nations.
Our delegation looks forward to learning more about U.S.-Philippine
cooperation during this visit.

-- Our condolences to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the
families of the soldiers who recently lost their lives in Mindanao.

-- The U.S. military advises, assists, and shares information with
the Philippine military, and conducts exercises, civil-military and
humanitarian work, and other visits here at the invitation of the
Philippine government.

-- Philippine Defense Reform represents a commitment to undertake
fundamental institutional change within the Armed Forces of the
Philippines. We're proud to be partners in this program.

-- We take the issue of extra-judicial killings seriously -- murder
is murder. It is important to apprehend suspects in these killings
and provide a fair but judicial process. We are encouraged by steps
the Philippine government has taken to try to get control of this

-- We are working with the Philippines to help achieve higher
economic growth and spread this growth, especially to the poor and

-- (If asked about the case of a U.S. Marine convicted of rape of a
Filipina at Subic in November 2005) I cannot comment on an ongoing
legal case in the Philippine justice system. Both our governments
remain committed to the pursuit of justice as well as adherence to
the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Visit Embassy Manila's Classified SIPRNET website: cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website:


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


UN SDG: UN Appoints Twenty Eminent Thinkers To Shed New Light On The World’s Greatest Challenges

New York, 21 January 2021 – Twenty prominent personalities, globally renowned for their intellectual leadership in economic and social fields, will form the second United Nations High-level Advisory Board (HLAB) on Economic and Social Affairs, the ... More>>

UN: As COVID Deaths Pass Two Million Worldwide, Guterres Warns Against Self-Defeating ‘Vaccinationalism'

With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the pandemic and save lives. In a video statement , Secretary-General António Guterres ... More>>

UN: Violent Attempt At US Capitol To ‘overturn’ Election, Shocking And Incendiary

A group of independent UN rights experts released ... More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>