Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/03/09MANILA562.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA562
2009-03-13 08:33
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Manila

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #0562/01 0720833
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 130833Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3503
INFO RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK IMMEDIATE 3134
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA IMMEDIATE 6776
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR IMMEDIATE 0991
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS MANILA 000562

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KISL KPAO RP USAID
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES COMMUNITIES ON PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN CENTRAL MINDANAO

¶1. SUMMARY: The Ambassador completed a March 2-3 trip across
Central Mindanao to listen first-hand to communities dealing with
security and development issues on a day-to-day basis. The trip
began in General Santos City, with stops throughout South Cotabato,
Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao provinces, and finished in Cotabato
City. Mindanao has long been characterized by repeated episodes of
conflict, threats to security, and some of the lowest health and
social indicators in the country, and accordingly receives the
majority of the U.S. Government development assistance to the
Philippines. The visit drew attention to the interagency,
intergovernmental, and community-level efforts that have had a
positive impact on peace, security, business development, health,
the environment, and youth. The trip received extensive regional
media coverage and some national print media coverage. The
Ambassador took the opportunity to highlight the good work with
local public and private sector partners, as well as to emphasize
the need for continued development in Mindanao while working to
achieve peace. END SUMMARY.

———-
INTERAGENCY SUPPORT FOR PHILIPPINE COUNTERNARCOTICS EFFORTS
———-
¶2. Accompanied by the USAID Mission Director, the Ambassador began
at Camp Tambler in General Santos City, where she formally turned
over a Counternarcotics Consolidated Training Center to the
Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Office 12. The Joint
Interagency Task Force West (JIATF-W) provided support for the
renovation of the facilities that are being used for
counterdrug/counternarcotics (CD/CN) enforcement training. During
her address to the many PNP officers in attendance, the Ambassador
applauded U.S.-Philippine cooperation and noted the important role
of police in ensuring a safe, prosperous society and in defending
women and children from trafficking.

———-
A CLEANER, GREENER GENERAL SANTOS CITY
———-
¶3. The Ambassador then traveled to Notre Dame of Dadiangas High
School in General Santos City, where she joined some 1,000 jubilant
students, officials from the environment department and the local
chamber of commerce, the congressional representative, and the Mayor
of General Santos to launch the city’s solid waste management
campaign. The campaign is an important component of the
USAID-supported 10-year integrated solid waste and wastewater
management plan for the city, known as the tuna capital of the
Philippines, and whose economy depends on the health and
productivity of Sarangani Bay. The Ambassador commended the
enthusiastic commitment by the government, the private sector, and
schools to maintain a clean, healthy, and beautiful General Santos
City.

———-
PROMOTING HEALTHY WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
———-
¶4. Upon arrival in Polomolok municipality, the Ambassador had lunch
at the Dole Philippines plantation with key partners working on
health improvement in South Cotabato Province. Participants included
the congressional representative, local government officials,
private business sector representatives, NGOs, and the regional
directors of Department of Health, Department of Labor and
Employment, and PhilHealth, the national health insurance
corporation. The Ambassador facilitated a spirited discussion on
social health insurance and the contribution of private sector
employers to provide basic health care for their employees and
families. The collegial relationship among various Mindanao
government and private-sector leaders at the lunch meeting
highlighted the strong cooperation at the local level.

¶5. To view this public-private partnership in action, the Ambassador
visited a Family Health Fair of the Unified Engineering and Manpower
Services Multi-purpose Cooperative. Unified Engineering is an almost
2,000-member-strong cooperative of engineers, architects, and
skilled workers that provides manpower and engineering services to
Dole Philippines. With assistance from USAID’s private sector health
project, the cooperative was able to set up an exemplary family
health services program for their workers. The Ambassador and party
interacted with a festive crowd at various booths providing
information and counseling on maternal and child health care,
nutrition and fortified foods and infectious diseases. Community
members also had the opportunity to learn about the benefits and
entitlements of social health insurance.

———-
STRENGTHENING COMMUNITIES THROUGH NEW SKILLS AND IMPROVED MOBILITY
———-
¶6. After the health fair, the Ambassador traveled to Barangay
Sumbakil in Polomolok municipality, in a picture-perfect setting of
green rice fields and distant mountains. In the barangay, the
Ambassador was able to witness the results of a USAID project which

helps farmers’ groups to produce higher value crops. The
beneficiaries of the project in this community were the members of
the Sumbakil Multi Purpose Cooperative (MPC) whose fifty members are
former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Through this project, the ex-combatants have been able to diversify
from corn to also produce eggplant, bitter gourd, and other more
lucrative vegetables. A typical farmer-member of this Co-op
increased income from about PHP 50,000 per year to about PHP 80,000
per year as a result of the diversification.

¶7. Due to their increase in income, the beneficiaries reported being
able to send their children to high school, and to make purchases
such as motorbikes that have greatly increased their mobility and
the overall quality of life of their families. During the event, the
Ambassador was presented a scarf as she was proclaimed an adopted
sister of the barangay women. The party then proceeded to a
ribbon-cutting to mark the turnover of the Sumbakil Barangay bridge,
financed by USAID. Before this bridge was built, there was no safe
crossing for pedestrians and vehicles, and trade was impeded. The
Ambassador and her party crossed the newly inaugurated bridge to
harvest eggplant from a field on the other side of the bridge which
was owned by one of the members of the beneficiary cooperative.

¶8. The visit to Sumbakil reinforced the notion that a small amount
of resources can have a large impact in terms of peace, prosperity,
and social development. This sentiment was movingly expressed by the
chairman of the Sumbakil Multi-purpose Cooperative and ex-commander
of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) when he stated, “With
these USAID projects, we are now able to send our children to school
and enjoy the basic comforts of life. The trust given to us by the
U.S. Government has inspired our people to work hard and renewed our
sense of pride as members of society.”

———-
NEW BOOKS, NEW BUILDINGS, BRIGHTER FUTURE
———-
¶9. The Ambassador began the next day with two events promoting both
traditional and adult education. First, the Ambassador turned over
the Kakal Elementary school building to the community of Paglat.
Paglat is one of the 39 target municipalities and cities assisted by
USAID’s education project. The school was built through an alliance
with the Petron Foundation and a grant to Habitat for Humanity. The
partnership was developed through support from USAID’s education
project. The new Kakal Elementary School was also the site of the
graduation of 25 out-of-school-youth who have received vocational
training in small-engine servicing through the workplace development
component of the USAID project. Along with the Mayor of Paglat, the
Department of Education Superintendent and school officials, the
Ambassador handed the proud graduates a set of tools as each began
their new careers.

¶10. With the brand new school standing in stark contrast to the old
open-air structure in the background, the Ambassador conveyed to the
students “This is your school; this is your future” as she called on
the students and graduates alike to take advantage of their
education for a more peaceful and prosperous future.

¶11. The next stop was the municipality of Esperanza where the
Ambassador was met by the roaring cheers of almost 1500 students and
staff. The Esperanza Central School is a shining example of
interagency cooperation and U.S. civil military engagements. The
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Joint Special
Operations Task Force- Philippines (JSOTF-P) provide logistical
support to deliver hundreds of books donated by the USAID education
project. The Ambassador read one of the books to a group of
elementary students in their library.

———-
PEACE AND SECURITY AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL
———-
¶12. During the next leg of the drive from General Santos City into
Cotabato City, the Ambassador heard from the communities impacted by
floods, armed conflict and lack of security. In the town of Talayan,
Maguindanao Province, the Ambassador was briefed by local government
leaders, municipal health and social welfare workers,
representatives from Save the Children and the International
Organization for Migration. The meeting provided an opportunity to
hear about the situation of displaced communities, the movement of
populations, health and social services provided and measures taken
for resettlement /relocation. Of the 10,545 displaced persons
reported in Talayan in December 2008, fewer than 2,000 have returned
home (about 325 families). The Ambassador stated the need to resolve
the conflict so that people can feel safe to return to their homes,
and benefit from long-term development efforts in health, education
and economic growth.

¶13. In Cotabato City, the Ambassador led a discussion about another
vital component of peace and security in the region. A discussion
was held at the American Resource Center in Notre Dame University on

the issue of rido (clan conflicts). This security issue does not
receive as much attention as the conflict between MNLF or MILF and
the Philippine government but is an important cause of the lack of
security in the region. The participants (community leaders, NGOs,
advocacy groups, and clan members themselves) described the
characteristics of rido and what each is doing to help resolve and
prevent conflict. The U.S. Government, through USAID, supports The
Asia Foundation and the Gerry Roxas Foundation to conduct research
to better understand the dynamics and management of rido and to
build the capacities of local mediators to peacefully resolve
existing conflicts between and among clans.

———-
AN AMERICAN FAVORITE IN COTABATO CITY
———-
¶14. The Ambassador had the opportunity to have lunch at the first
McDonald’s restaurant in Cotabato City, which enjoyed one of the
largest opening days ever for a McDonald’s in the Philippines. She
was joined by the Mayor of Cotabato City, the McDonald’s franchise
owner, and representatives from McDonald’s Philippines. The lunch
was an opportunity to learn about the company’s contribution to
economic growth in the city and the business environment overall.
The Ambassador’s lunch companions related how, shortly after the
McDonald’s opening in December, the wife of Cotabato City Mayor
Sema, UNESCO Commissioner Bai Sandra Sema, brought 400 McDonald’s
Happy Meals to the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Camp
Abubakar. Mayor Sema said the resulting festive picnic was an
enormous success, and suggested that, notwithstanding an August
flare-up of violence between government troops and the MILF, all
sides are eager for peace and a return to normalcy.

———-
GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT
———-
¶15. The Ambassador met several members of the Cotabato regional
media for an informal conversation at a local coffee shop in
Cotabato City. The topics ranged from the peace process, U.S.
government activities in Mindanao, the upcoming Philippine elections
to the recent U.S. presidential elections. The conversation provided
an excellent opportunity to clarify the U.S. military role in
Mindanao, a role that is often misconstrued in the media. It was
also a fitting capstone to a 2-day trip in which the Ambassador was
able to hear from communities about the efforts they were making
towards peace and development in the region and the partnerships
with the U.S. Government that were supporting these efforts.

———-
PARTNERS FOR PEACE
———-
¶16. The Ambassador ended her trip through central Mindanao by
meeting with the AFP’s 6th Infantry Division Deputy Commander, COL
Joselito Bernardo, and JSOTF-P Task Force Mindanao on the
collaboration between the two organizations in the region by
increasing development through peace and security. COL Bernardo
thanked the Ambassador for the U.S. military’s support in training
his civil affairs teams on population outreach and partnership on
multiple civil-military projects. The Ambassador also took this
underscore the vital importance of respect for human rights.

———-
PROBLEM SOLVERS FROM POWERFUL CLANS
———-
¶17. The Ambassador’s encounters with city mayors and other elected
officials during the visits from General Santos to Cotabato City
revealed the extent to which local politicians are using their
authority to seek solutions to challenges that have heretofore been
inadequately addressed by the national government. Many mayoral and
congressional slots across the region will be decided in May 2010
national elections, including mayors of Cotabato City and General
Santos, governor of South Cotabato, and South Cotabato’s two
congressional seats. Family clans that have held some of these
positions for several terms could stay in power by fielding
candidates for any of the other available slots.

¶18. General Santos Congresswoman Darlene Antonino-Custodio, whose
family has held that seat since 1987 and who will have served the
maximum of three consecutive three-year terms, described to the
Ambassador over the course of an afternoon how she has used her
personal political capital and savvy to try to resolve a
long-running international fishing dispute with Indonesia over
access to international fishing waters and that country’s detention
of Philippine fishermen accused of encroaching on Indonesia’s
sovereign territory. Her ability to finally solve the dispute –
with little help from the Manila political establishment – will be
important for General Santos’s continued success as the country’s
premier tuna processor, and for Antonino-Custodio’s own efforts to
make a lateral move into another elected position.

———-

COMMENT
———-
¶19. The Ambassador’s trip through Central Mindanao highlighted the
hope and commitment expressed by local communities for their future,
in the face of periodic armed conflict and unrest, and of persistent
economic and social challenges. It was evident that people sought
peace and wanted an opportunity to be heard. They were appreciative
of U.S. Government resources and, notably, for the U.S. “taking a
chance” on their communities. Signs of long-term development were
visible everywhere, including new schools, healthier families, new
sources of livelihood, and new highways. In addition, business
investments, whether the McDonald’s in Cotabato City, the expansion
of Dole Philippines, Inc., or the large department store under
construction in General Santos, offered a preview of the region’s
possibilities. The Ambassador’s trip underscored the fact that
relatively modest resources, paired with a commitment to peace and a
cooperative spirit, can have a sizeable impact on the region’s
future.

KENNEY

   

 

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