Cablegate: Scenesetter for Philippine Agriculture Secretary Yap's

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E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Scenesetter for Philippine Agriculture Secretary Yap's
Trip to Washington

1. (SBU) Summary. Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur Cua Yap
has an impressive range of agricultural, environmental, trade and
political goals for his brief November 15-16 visit to Washington.
With nearly two-thirds of Filipinos engaged in agriculture - and
farm families suffering the highest levels of poverty - agricultural
reform is a priority for the Arroyo government. A former student
and a confidant of President Arroyo, Yap is bright, articulate and
will likely remain an important leader in Philippine government and
business. A principal goal of Yap's visit is to meet with the
Global Environment Facility (GEF) regarding the Coral Triangle, a
region of extraordinary marine and coastal biological resources.
But he will also be urging continued USDA assistance - and increased
U.S. agricultural investment - to ameliorate poverty in conflict
areas of Muslim Mindanao. We believe he will also carry a message
on Philippine trade policy for USTR Ambassador Schwab from President
Arroyo. After his Washington stop, the Secretary travels to
meetings with the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. End

2. (SBU) While the energetic and hardworking Yap spends a good deal
of time visiting agricultural enterprises throughout the
Philippines, he is also an important political troubleshooter for
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Young, articulate, well educated
and well connected in the Filipino-Chinese elite, we expect Yap to
continue to play leadership roles in the government in coming years.
He accompanied President Arroyo on recent visits to India and
China. Prior to his October 2005 cabinet appointment, he co-founded
a law firm and served as president of the Philippine Association of
Paint Manufacturers. Yap has a bachelor's degree in management and
economics from the Ateneo de Manila University, a private Catholic
university. He studied economics under then-Professor Gloria Arroyo
and finished his law degree at the same school.

Agriculture Vital to Philippines

3. (U) Agriculture is an essential element of the Philippine
economy, accounting for some 20 percent of GDP. Two-thirds of the
country's population depends on farming for its livelihood, and
about half of the labor force is engaged in agricultural activities.
Agricultural development is a priority of the Arroyo administration
as farm households account for the highest levels of poverty and
malnutrition. Farming is generally undertaken in small farms with
an average area of two hectares. Rice, corn, and coconut production
make up nearly 30 percent of farm output. Under its Agriculture and
Fisheries Modernization Plan, the Philippines has prioritized
livestock development, specifically upgrading the genetics of
dairy/beef cattle and small ruminants; investment in pre- and
post-harvest facilities and infrastructure; and biotechnology
research and development.

Arms to Farms in Muslim Mindanao

4. (SBU) Secretary Yap was originally scheduled to travel to
Washington on October 22-23, but postponed his visit at the request
of President Arroyo. Yap indicated to us that a key goal is to seek
a continuation of grants and loans - and perhaps some new funding -
from USDA programs including PL 480, Title 1, the Cochran program,
and Food for Progress, especially for projects in Mindanao
administered through Catholic Relief Services. Yap said he was also
looking for opportunities to work with private U.S. companies that
could invest in programs in Mindanao on bio-fuels, fisheries,
commodity processing, dairy, and halal food processing for export.

5. (SBU) Secretary Yap is scheduled to meet with USTR Ambassador
Susan Schwab on November 15 to deliver a message from Philippine
President Arroyo. Although we do not know the precise content of
the personal message, it may concern the issue of a Free Trade
Agreement between the United States and the Philippines. Yap is
slated to have a courtesy call on USDA Acting Secretary Connor on
November 15 to discuss arrangements for detailed meetings on
agricultural issues next year.

Coral Triangle Dinner

6. (U) Secretary Yap will make a presentation on the Coral Triangle
to key Pacific Rim decisionmakers and officials at a dinner
associated with the annual meeting of the Global Environmental
Facility (GEF) Council. Sometimes referred to as the "Amazon of the
Seas", the Coral Triangle is the center of marine biodiversity and
productivity, containing over half the planet's coral reef and over
75% of its coral species. The Coral Triangle is also of vital
economic importance to the entire Pacific region, with fisheries
that support the livelihoods of over 120 million people, and tuna
spawning grounds that support a multi-billion dollar industry in
both the Pacific and Indian oceans. However, the Coral Triangle is

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at immediate risk from a range of factors, including over-fishing
and unsustainable fishing methods, land-based sources of pollution,
and population pressure.

7. (U) Yap may meet with USAID officials November 16 to discuss
ongoing USAID support to coastal and marine resource management in
the Philippines in the context of a new Comprehensive National
Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP), which lays out
Philippines fisheries strategic directions over the coming 20 years.
The Plan was produced with assistance from USAID.

8. (U) Secretary Yap will be accompanied by Malcolm Sarmiento,
Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR);
and Noel Barut, BFAR's Chief Aquaculturist.

9. (SBU) Comment: This is Secretary Yap's first official visit to
Washington in his current capacity and he is eager to make a good
impression and focus on substantive results. Indicative of his
hardworking style, Yap has prepared well for his visit. He is
deeply appreciative of U.S. assistance and support and has been in
close contact with us to ask for advice on how best to approach
Washington officials and industry. We suggested that he should
concentrate on laying the foundation for growing partnerships in the
agricultural sector between America and the Philippines.


© Scoop Media

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