Oct 262014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/07/07MANILA2422.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA2422
2007-07-19 06:12
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6767
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2422/01 2000612
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 190612Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7483
INFO RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002422

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL CASC RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES MILITARY, CIVIC AND COMMERCIAL LEADERS OF DAVAO AND DATU PAGLAS

¶1. SUMMARY: On July 5 and 6, the Ambassador, JUSMAG, DAO and
Commercial Counselor traveled to Davao, Mindanao. The visit
highlighted the “one Mission” approach to Mindanao with military,
commercial and public diplomacy outreach in the heavily-Muslim
region where safety and security threats continue to limit outside
involvement. The Ambassador visited sites in Davao and Datu Paglas
including the Rotary Club of Davao, La Frutera, Inc. and the Bonawan
Irrigation Structure. END SUMMARY.

ORCHID CAPITAL OF THE PHILIPPINES
——————————–

¶2. Known as the orchid capital of the Philippines, Davao is the
commercial, agricultural, and tourism center of Mindanao. The city
of 1.3 million residents is the largest in the Philippines in terms
of area. The city’s infrastructure is undergoing major
modernization, but agriculture drives the economy. Banana, coconut,
pineapple and coffee products transit from the seaports in Davao to
both domestic and foreign consumers.

DATU PAGLAS
———–
¶3. Datu Paglas is a Muslim town located in Maguindanao Province,
internationally recognized as a model for transformation of conflict
areas. Under its current mayor, the town transformed from a Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stronghold to a magnet for
international investment. The mayor eradicated much crime and hired
former guerillas to work at the local banana plantation, La Frutera,
Inc. The plantation receives funding from a number of foreign
investors including Chiquita Unifrutti of Cincinnati.

VISIT TO EAST MINDANAO COMMAND
——————————

¶4. The Commander of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern
Mindanao Command briefed the Ambassador, JUSMAG, DAO, and JSOTF-P
representatives at its temporary headquarters in Davao. AFP recently
divided its Southern Command into Western and Eastern Mindanao
Commands. Operations in the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM)
focus on threats from Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jema’ah Islamiyah
(JI) primarily in the Sulu Archipelago while Eastern Mindanao
Command (EASTMINCOM) addresses threats from MILF splinter groups and
the New People’s Army (NPA). EASTMINCOM stated that their goal is
to eliminate the Communist Terrorist Movement (CTM) by 2010.

¶5. The area remains dangerous due to insurgent activity although
EASTMINCOM has succeeded in reducing enemy capabilities. In
response, guerillas and splinter groups have increased attacks on
soft targets in the area of operations. There have been 12 recent
bombings in EASTMINCOM’s area of responsibility, most recently the
June 15th Weena bus bombing which left 8 dead and 19 injured.
Officials believe the bus company’s refusal to pay a “revolutionary
tax” triggered the attack. Contacts within the local community also
indicate that these attacks aim to disrupt the GRP-MILF talks and
perhaps increase recruitment to the cause of the threat groups.

¶6. According to the EASTMINCOM Commander, the greatest benefit of
AFP’s presence is the reduced ability of the threat groups to
communicate. They have difficulty meeting in person or ingratiating
themselves with locals, and usually forced to communicate only by
mobile phone. When questioned, the Commander stated that there is no
evidence that the MILF has recently received foreign support or
arms. He also noted that because the NPA continues to finance
itself illegally with revenue taken from illegal logging,
agriculture and mineral extraction, it remains unmotivated to join
in the peace process.

BUSINESS AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
—————————–

¶7. The Ambassador gave the keynote address at the Annual Induction
of Officers of the Rotary Club of Davao. She urged business and
civic leaders to play a part in the peace process in Mindanao,
pointing out that their success is evidence that peace results in
increased levels of investment and community prosperity. Members
from the 20 Rotary Clubs in Davao and its suburbs attended the
event.

¶8. The Commercial Counselor visited American businesses and the
Chamber of Commerce to promote the American Showcase in Davao, a
Commercial Service exhibit in October that will feature American
products and agribusiness.

¶9. On July 6, the Ambassador toured the Unifrutti Banana Plantation
in Datu Paglas and was briefed by the Chairman of Unifrutti
Philippines and the Managing Director for Philippine Operations of
Chiquita-Unifrutti Asia. The Chairman explained that the Datu, the
local tribal leader, plays a critical role in the plantation’s
success. In this area of Southern Mindanao, society remains feudal

MANILA 00002422 002 OF 002

and the local people consider the Datu to be the absolute authority
in all matters. In addition to serving as the mayor, the Datu is
CEO and President of the Datu Paglas Corporation, the primary local
investor in the plantation. The plantation’s operating procedures
mesh local culture with international business practices. Workers
follow a 4 day per week rotating schedule and the workforce changes
daily as the heads of each local family send different family
members to work each day. When the company realized that firing
workers without obtaining the Datu’s permission was culturally
unacceptable, they gained local support by hiring his sister to work
in Human Resources since that lended royal authority to personnel
decisions of the company.

¶10. The Chairman also provided insight into Asian market banana
standards which divides bananas into different classes. For example,
Japan will only purchase perfect Class A bananas as does Korea to a
lesser extent. China on the other hand would accept all classes, but
they are a large producer and do not need to import as much as the
other countries. Finally, the Middle Eastern countries will accept
any class of banana.

DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
——————–

¶11. Outside of Datu Paglas, the Ambassador traveled via tractor to
formally turn-over the Bonawan Irrigation Structure to the Lower
Bonawan-Maybula Irrigator’s Association, whose 120 members will
directly benefit from the project. The $22,000 USAID project will
help the Association maximize production on its 400 hectares of
farmland. A crowd of villagers turned out to see the town mayor and
the Ambassador formally open a sluice that will more efficiently
control the flow of water into the farmers’ fields.

¶12. In Davao Ambassador witnessed the signing of grants between
USAID and six business sector organizations to establish and
strengthen family health programs in the workplace. USAID’s PRISM
Project announced the release of grants totaling USD 223,623 and
total contributions from the business organizations reached USD
90,106. Local dignitaries including the Representative from South
Cotabato attended the event.

MEDIA COVERAGE
————–

¶13. Media coverage of the trip was extensive and favorable. The
Ambassador did interviews on both major Philippine television
networks. She appeared live on a local news and variety program and
taped a longer interview for an evening news program. In both
appearances, the Ambassador highlighted USG involvement in Mindanao.
Additionally, she addressed the Davao media during a short interview
at the grant signing ceremony.

KENNEY

   

 

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