Cablegate: Rep. Filner's Meeting with President Arroyo
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2458/01 3290419
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 250419Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5880
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/VA CENTRAL OFC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002458
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OREP OVIP VA RP
SUBJECT: REP. FILNER'S MEETING WITH PRESIDENT ARROYO
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a November 23 meeting at Malacanang
Palace, President Arroyo thanked Representative Bob Filner
for his successful effort to secure additional benefits for
an expanded group of Filipino and Filipino-American veterans.
The Congressman and the President also discussed how the
SAVE Act would benefit Philippine apparel exporters and U.S.
textile producers; Philippine efforts toward qualifying for
Millennium Challenge Corporation funding; the effort to
secure peace in Mindanao before the end of the Arroyo
administration; and immigration for Philippine nurses. END
2. (U) Participants:
Representative Bob Filner
Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
Tony Buckles, House Veterans Affairs Committee
Jon Skelly, USDVA
Peter Hemsch, Embassy notetaker
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo
Interim National Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales
Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, DND
Assistant Secretary Lourdes Yparraguirre, DFA
Deena Joy Amatong, DFA
3. (SBU) In a November 23 meeting at the Presidential palace,
President Arroyo thanked Representative Bob Filner for his
successful effort to secure U.S. legislation that granted
additional veterans benefits to an expanded group of
Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. President Arroyo noted
that Rep. Filner had worked on the issue for a long period of
time and had found a solution even when the situation looked
bleak for the legislation.
4. (SBU) Rep. Filner said that he and President Arroyo had
made a great two-person team for securing veterans benefits.
Rep. Filner said that the prospects for the legislation had
improved when the new U.S. Congress was seated in January
2009 and Sen. Inouye, Sen. Akaka, and he -- all of whom have
a strong interest in Philippine issues -- assumed key
committee positions. Then the idea of a one-time payment
came up and Sen. Inouye was able to push it through.
5. (SBU) Ambassador Kenney commended the Philippine Veterans
Affairs Office for their support for the U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs' energetic nationwide outreach to veterans
after the legislation passed, to include providing venues for
U.S. Mission Manila's USDVA staff to receive claims. As a
result of those efforts, over $125 million in benefits has
already been disbursed. Rep. Filner agreed, complimenting
the USDVA effort and commenting that he had seen similar
benefits take a much greater amount of time to be disbursed.
He also noted the contribution made by the Philippine Embassy
in Washington in educating the Congress on the issue.
6. (SBU) Rep. Filner asked President Arroyo what new issues
they could work on now that veterans benefits had been
secured. Arroyo described the legislation known as the SAVE
Act (Save Our Industries Act; HR 3039), which would benefit
Philippine apparel exporters and the U.S. textile producers.
The draft bill would grant a 50-100 percent reduction in U.S.
duties for certain apparel which is assembled in the
Philippines using U.S. textile components. The President
said that Philippines has a strong apparel industry which
uses foreign-made textile components, and that these
components might as well come from the U.S.
7. (SBU) Rep. Filner said the SAVE Act was notable because,
by benefiting U.S. textile manufacturers, it would be of
interest to a segment of the U.S. beyond the traditional
congressional districts with large Philippine-American
Millennium Challenge Corporation
8. (SBU) Ambassador Kenney noted that she had briefed Rep.
Filner on the Philippines' case for Millennium Challenge
Corporation (MCC) funding. President Arroyo said that, like
all developing countries, the Philippines faces a challenge
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in meeting the corruption indicator. Her government is
working to combat corruption, but the scale of the problem is
exaggerated by the very free press (with which she does not
want to interfere). Arroyo added the Philippines had come
close to securing MCC funding as a Lower Income country;
however, their change to a Lower Middle Income country this
year meant they had to attain a higher standard on the MCC
9. (SBU) Foreign Secretary Romulo said that Sen. Inouye has
drafted an amendment to pending MCC legislation that would
have the Philippines (and Indonesia and Colombia) judged
under the Lower Income country criteria.
Mindanao Peace Process
10. (SBU) Rep. Filner asked President Arroyo whether a peace
deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was
possible before the end of her term. Arroyo said that she is
hopeful, noting that the MILF wants a peace deal now because
they cannot be sure what the new administration's position
will be. Foreign Secretary Romulo added that, during
Secretary Clinton's recent visit here, she had spoken of the
lost opportunity for Mideast peace at the end of President
Clinton's second term. Arroyo then asked Romulo to provide
information on that historical episode to the MILF.
11. (SBU) Ambassador Kenney commented that Rep. Filner would
be traveling to Zamboanga to meet with members of the U.S.
Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. President
Arroyo replied that U.S. soldiers are "so very welcome there."
Immigration for Philippine Nurses
12. (SBU) Rep. Filner praised the important contribution that
Philippine nurses are making in the U.S., but expressed his
concern that this immigration constituted a loss of human
resources for the Philippines. Would it be helpful, he
asked, for the U.S. to accept Philippine medical personnel
for a five-year period and then require them to return home.
President Arroyo said that the key problem facing Philippine
nurses was lack of practicum training hours. If the U.S.
could help upgrade medical facilities to provide expanded
practicum opportunities, that would be very useful.
13. (SBU) President Arroyo concluded the meeting by thanking
Rep. Filner again for all that he has done for the
Philippines and calling him a good friend to her and the
14. (U) Rep. Filner cleared this cable.