Oct 262014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA4681 2006-11-14 05:52 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #4681/01 3180552
O 140552Z NOV 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

¶1. SUMMARY: During a November 3-4 trip to the island of Palawan, the
Ambassador visited Western Command (WESCOM) Headquarters; spoke to
local tricycle drivers about the success of a USAID pollution
reduction and traffic control project; met with local Peace Corps
Volunteers and environmental NGO leaders about the cleanliness of
Puerto Princesa City; spoke with students at the Western Philippine
University (WPU) about Peace Corps activities in Palawan; and
engaged with local and provincial leaders about joint military and
environmental cooperation between the U.S. and the Philippines.
Ambassador was enthusiastically welcomed by residents and covered
well by media. End Summary.


¶2. Vice-Admiral Danga told Ambassador and JUSMAG leadership that the
joint Philippine – U.S. “Talon Vision” and “PHIBLEX” military
exercises were a success. Both militaries learned from the other,
and both helped local residents with medical care and with school
construction. Danga said that he would like to continue military
cooperation, but suggested that future military exercises be
conducted in the Muslim areas of southern Palawan, specifically
Balabac, to include a population that is at the center of the hearts
and minds campaign by the AFP. WESCOM’s leadership said it was proud
of its role in environmental conservation, which is in line with the
environmentally friendly policies of Governor Reyes and Mayor

¶3. WESCOM protects 755,412 people on 1,768 islands (including the
hotly contested Spratly Islands). It covers two congressional
districts, 23 municipalities, and one city (Puerto Princesa). It
protects the commercial operations of the 4.8 billion Malampaya gas
pipeline that runs from Palawan to Batangas in Central Luzon. This
gas project will generate approximately 2,700 megawatts of power for
the next 20 years.

USAID Tricycle Project
¶4. Ambassador was greeted at the city Coliseum by Mayor Hagedorn and
Mr. Efnie Lusoc, the President of the Federation of Tricycle
Operators and Drivers Association. Ambassador was briefed on the
USAID and Puerto Princesa City “Clean Air for Puerto Princesa”
project to reduce vehicle emissions from tricycles and improve the
air quality in the city. The city government took up the successful
program in June 2005. Hagedorn and Lusoc said they were grateful for
USAID assistance in reducing air pollution and traffic congestion. A
before and after video of a major Puerto Princesa street showed the
success of the tricycle project. Not only was traffic improved, but
the wages of tricycle drivers went up by 50 percent, which was
attributed to increased passenger volume due to fewer tricycles on
the streets. Local leaders are proud of the cleanliness, order, and
economic viability they have achieved with this program. Both
Hagedorn and Lusoc said they welcomed future USAID projects in
Puerto Princesa City. Mayor Hagedorn took the Ambassador on a
ceremonial tricycle ride and photo-op, which were warmly received by
local media, politicians, residents, and school children.
Peace Corps and Environmental NGO Lunch

¶5. Ambassador hosted a lunch for environmental NGOs and two of the
nine Peace Corps Volunteers in Palawan. NGO leaders stressed the
importance of balancing tourism and economic growth with
environmental conservation and protection. They want to limit the
growth of the mining industry, which does not provide many jobs and
is a serious threat to the environment. They said that illegal
fishing and logging by foreigners, principally from other Asian
countries, was not punished by the judiciary, while Filipinos
engaged in similar activities were punished. The outcome of the
decisions or lack of decisions by the judiciary was leading to
repeat foreign offenders. NGO leaders want to continue working with
USAID and PCVs and want to strengthen their relationship with the
Philippine government.

Western Philippine University (WPU)

¶6. Peace Corps Volunteer Michael Bercik is assigned to the Western
Philippine University (WPU), one of two institutions of higher
learning in Puerto Princesa City. The WPU offers a wide range of
courses, including agriculture science, journalism, and criminology.
The WPU was on break, but warmly welcomed the Ambassador to its
Puerto Princesa Campus. The Ambassador met privately with WPU
President Concepto B. Magay, spoke to a group of 14 students and six

MANILA 00004681 002 OF 002

faculty members about the role of the Peace Corps, and spoke on the
importance of English in education and in the work place. A question
and answer session followed. Students wanted to know how to get a
visa to the U.S., how to study in the U.S., and what the USG could
do for them and their country. The Ambassador encouraged students to
keep on learning and taking risks in order for them to achieve their
goals and become successful leaders.

Chambers of Commerce

¶7. Ambassador Kenney met with members of the Palawan Chamber of
Commerce and Industry and the Palawan Filipino-Chinese Chamber of
Commerce and Industry. The Palawan Chamber members said that
ecotourism can help Palawan in the future, but poor infrastructure
has not yet made it a reality. Conversely, the Chinese-Filipino
Chamber representative Vic Tan believed that local NGOs and
environmental considerations by the government obstruct business

¶8. Members of the local chambers were unsure how to promote Palawan
business, but were eager to discuss how U.S. Embassy Manila could
help them achieve their objectives. They were interested in getting
speakers from the Economic Section, Foreign Agricultural Service,
and Foreign Commercial Service to come speak to local business

¶9. Most Palaweos are city government employees and unskilled
workers who fish and farm rice, mangoes, and cashews. The lack of
industry makes employment difficult in Palawan. The mining industry
does not create many jobs, and the tax revenue generated by the
mines goes to Manila, though processed fruit and fish products may
be a way to create new industry.

¶10. The national government recently announced that 3 billion pesos
(50 pesos per dollar) will be appropriated for the upgrading of the
Puerto Princesa airport, with hopes that Palawan will become an
international gateway in the next two years. Another 4 billion pesos
will be appropriated in the next three years for the improvement of
the road system from northern to southern Palawan. The Strategic
Environment Plan, unique to Palawan, requires an environmental
clearance that takes three months to process, thus discouraging the
establishment of big factories and industrial plants.

Dinner with Palawan Politicians

¶11. Governor Reyes and Mayor Hagedorn hosted a dinner for the
Ambassador, which included Representatives Antonio Alvarez and
Abraham Kahlil Mitra. All agreed that joint Philippine – U.S. “Talon
Vision” and “PHIBLEX” military exercises in October 2006 were a
success. Like Vice-Admiral Danga of WESCOM, they recommended that
future exercises be held in the Muslim region of southern Palawan.

¶12. Although belonging to different political persuasions, local
politicians in Palawan, led by Governor Reyes and Mayor Hagedorn,
forged an unprecedented alliance in the May 2004 presidential
elections to support PGMA. They are one as well in pushing for the
development of the province, with a focus on environmental
protection, tourism, investment, peace, and order. The May 2007
midterm elections will test the strength of this alliance.


¶13. Ambassador Kenney underscored the long standing friendship
between the U.S. and the Philippines in an interview with Ms. Leny
Escaro for both DYPR Radio and the local ABS-CBN TV affiliate, and
in a telephone interview with Ms. Mitchie Hitosis of DYER Radio. The
Ambassador also visited DYSP Super Radyo Studio, where she was
enthusiastically welcomed, and had a live radio interview with Mr.
James Viernes. Local press widely covered the Ambassador’s visit and
the USG contributions to peace in prosperity in Palawan.




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