Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2104/01 1730800
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 220800Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7104
INFO RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002104
STATE PASS USAIDS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MARR EAID RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR’S ZAMBOANGA VISIT HIGHLIGHTS ROBUST US-PHILIPPINES SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP
¶1. SUMMARY: During a May 31 and June 1 visit to Zamboanga City, the
Ambassador attended the opening of the 2007 Cooperation Afloat
Readiness And Training (CARAT) Exercises and presided over the
donations of a USAID-built suspension footbridge and 42,000
textbooks. She attended a business and government roundtable focused
on efforts at improved tax collection and witnessed the benefits of
an offshore island’s solar-powered electrification. A reception on
the USS Harper’s Ferry brought together local political and social
leaders while the ship’s crew donated sports equipment, rice and
school supplies to an elementary school. Media coverage was
extensive and highly positive. End Summary.
¶2. Zamboanga City is a busy international port with strategic
importance in the southern Philippines and Sulu archipelago as a
center of government and commerce. It is the fifth largest city of
the Philippines with a population of over 850,000 and an economy
driven by fishing and agricultural exports. The city is home to the
Western Mindanao Command of the Philippine Armed Forces where Joint
Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P) is co-located.
The political and cultural dynamics of the area are complex and
conflict has long been a part of the social fabric. Recently the
city and region have benefited from the strong cooperative
relationships of JSOTF-P along with those of USAID that helped to
improve infrastructure, increase economic growth, and lay the
foundation for peace and prosperity in this often troubled part of
2007 Cooperation Afloat Readiness And Training
¶3. Three participating U.S. Navy ships exchanged personnel with
their Philippine counterparts over the 11-day 2007 CARAT exercises.
CARAT conducted a symposium on maritime security, amphibious and
boat raid training, a diving exercise, and a command post and staff
¶4. The Ambassador and the USS Harpers Ferry hosted a shipboard
reception for 75 local political and civic leaders in Zamboanga
City. Local leaders were thrilled to board a US Naval vessel, and
many turned up more than an hour early to engage the ship’s crew,
which included a large percentage of Filipino-Americans.
USAID GEM Suspension Footbridge
¶5. Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat proudly joined the Ambassador
in the inauguration of a pedestrian footbridge that USAID’s Growth
with Equity in Mindanao-2 (GEM-2) Program built to connect an
isolated community to the center of the city. The entire community
turned out for this event, waving US flags, while Mayor Lobregat
gave a heartfelt speech thanking the USG.
¶6. In the two years since it joined the Transparent and Accountable
Governance (TAG) Project, co-sponsored by USAID and the Asia
Foundation, Zamboanga City has been able to increase its business
tax collection by almost 300%. In a roundtable discussion with the
Ambassador and the Mayor, local officials and businesspersons cited
the benefits of improved governance for the entire city population.
Improved efficiency and reduced steps needed to open a business were
mentioned as important benefits of the program.
¶7. To highlight USAID’s Education Awareness Support Effort (EASE)
Program–which works through a partnership with GEM-2, the U.S.
Brother’s Brother Foundation, the Philippine National Book
Development Board, and local schools–the Ambassador and Mayor
Lobregat visited a local university to present over 42,000
textbooks. Nearly 100 school principals from throughout Mindanao
attended this event. EASE donates textbooks to 132 schools
throughout the conflict-affected areas of Western Mindanao, an
average of 500 books per school, through a matching grants system.
AMORE Pangapuyan Island Electrification Project
MANILA 00002104 002 OF 002
¶8. The Ambassador journeyed by rigid-hulled, inflatable boat to the
remote Pangapuyan Island to visit a USAID-funded electrification
site. Since its inception in 2002, the Alliance for Mindanao
Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) Project has provided electrical
power to over 350 villages throughout Mindanao. Thanks to AMORE,
Pangapuyan Island’s 30 homes, school buildings, and mosques now have
solar-powered electricity. The addition of lights to homes with
school-age children and a public address system for the call to
prayer were two obvious changes that AMORE brought to the island.
In an especially touching moment, the Imam of the local mosque
invited the Ambassador inside, and then presented her with his own
well-worn copy of the Koran.
COMREL – USS Harpers Ferry Sports Equipment Donation
9.The crew of the USS Harpers Ferry partnered with members of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines, local organizations, community
members, USAID personnel, and US military personnel conducted
several community relations (COMREL) projects. The Ambassador
visited a community relations event at Boalan Elementary School
during which the crew donated sports equipment and Project Handclasp
¶10. Both national and local media – including television, radio, and
newspapers – extensively covered these events, underscoring the
helpful role that the USG continues to play in improving the lives
of ordinary citizens in Zamboanga City and elsewhere in Mindanao.