Sep 192014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/09/06MANILA4126.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA4126 2006-09-27 09:13 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Manila
VZCZCXRO1590
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #4126/01 2700913
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270913Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3178
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 004126

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR PEACE CORPS, USAID
FOR ECA, EAP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV PREL EAID RP JA
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR HIGHLIGHTS STABILITY AND ECONOMIC SUCCESSES IN GENERAL SANTOS CITY, MINDANAO

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SUMMARY
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¶1. During a visit on September 22, Ambassador gained a firsthand
look at the economic successes in General Santos City and the
surrounding area. USG investment in the region’s infrastructure has
transformed the economy. Investments have dramatically increased,
particularly in the tuna and agriculture sectors. The tuna industry
seeks to expand market share through upcoming trade agreements. The
RP armed forces in the area have reorganized and are working with
local communities to maintain regional stability. The Ambassador
was well-received, and there was positive local and national press
coverage throughout the visit. End summary.

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USAID-Funded Improvements Strengthen Economy
——————————————–

¶2. USAID involvement in Mindanao intensified during the 1980s in an
effort to bolster the Aquino administration by helping to strengthen
the national economy. USAID implemented the “Mindanao Development
Project,” an infrastructure development program, from 1992 to 1996
in General Santos City, South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces.
USAID funded a new international airport in General Santos City ($52
million), a major expansion and upgrade of Makar Port, the principal
seaport ($22 million), and the construction of 180 kilometers of
road in the region ($35 million). USAID also introduced an
investment promotion program advocating investment in the newly
developed General Santos region. These development projects were
successful, and the region now accounts for 20% of Mindanao’s total
economic output.

——————————————— ——–
Armed Forces Reorganize to Enhance Regional Stability
——————————————— ——–

¶3. Ambassador and Emboffs met the Commanders of the 1002nd Infantry
Brigade and Task Force General Santos, as well as Mayor Pedro
Acharon. 1002nd Colonel Porto stated that the greatest threat in
the region is the New People’s Army (NPA), though he estimated the
number of local NPA members at less than five hundred.

¶4. Mayor Acharon said the AFP is working with the local government
to increase security in the area. AFP has provided basic training
to village residents so they can protect their communities. The
Philippine National Police has also worked with local communities to
ensure that they are not forced to pay taxes to the NPA. Both the
Mayor and the AFP officials lamented that the AFP forces are
inadequate for the region, with a ratio of 1 soldier to 1500
residents. Consequently, the Mayor has used city funds to hire
fifty reservists to be trained and used in the city environs.

——————————————— —-
Internet Enhances Learning at a Rural High School
——————————————— —-

¶5. The Ambassador reinforced U.S. support for education during a
kick-off ceremony for the USAID-funded Computer Literacy and
Internet Connection (CLIC) program at a rural high school in South
Cotabato Province. This school is one of eleven schools in the
province receiving assistance through the CLIC program. The program
is providing seven computers, peripherals, and one year of internet
service. The school parent-teacher community association will
assume responsibility for subsequent years of internet service and
computer maintenance.

——————————————— ——-
Tuna and Agriculture Dominant in General Santos City
——————————————— ——-

¶6. In a lunch with local business and political leaders, the
Ambassador discussed General Santos City’s successful economy.
Formerly focused solely on agriculture, the economy of the region
has been transformed by the USAID-financed infrastructure. People
are migrating to General Santos City from other provinces, as the
region boasts of one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country
at 5.4%. Infrastructure improvements have encouraged international
investment. Several American companies, including Cargill, Phillips
Seafood, Marsman-Drysdale and Dole have established operations in
the area. Ambassador discussed the importance of supporting English
language education in order to attract call centers and other
investors to the region. Participants noted that the influx of
people has increased the need for additional schools.

¶7. According to business leaders, the tuna industry provides
100,000 jobs and has a combined canning capacity of 570 metric tons
per day. The United States is the biggest market for canned tuna

MANILA 00004126 002 OF 002

and Japan is currently the largest market for fresh sashimi-grade
tuna. Tuna industry representatives do not anticipate long-term
benefits from the recently signed Japanese-Philippines Economic
Partnership Agreement, for while the agreement lowers tariffs,
export quotas remain low. Tuna industry leaders expressed concern
about the Philippines’ small market share for pouched tuna,
emphasizing that Ecuadorian tuna is benefiting from lower tariff
rates through the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act.

————————————
Dole Provides Boost to Local Economy
————————————

¶8. The Ambassador paid a visit to Dole Philippines, which has
extensive operations in the General Santos City area, with a
plantation and cannery in the surrounding countryside and a
privately owned wharf. The company employs approximately 20,000
workers and growers. According to Dole managers, one of the factors
leading to Dole’s selection of this location was the highly
developed USAID-funded road network. Dole is currently embroiled in
a four-month labor dispute with its unionized employees. The
company is considering downsizing operations due to chronic labor
problems and concerns over oversupply in 2006. Embassy Manila is
closely following the current situation and working with Dole on
solutions.

KENNEY

   

 

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