Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L RANGOON 000249
STATE ALSO FOR EAP/BCLTV; CINPAC FOR FPA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/23/2014
TAGS: PREL PGOV BM RP
SUBJECT: FILIPINO ENVOY MAKES LOW-KEY VISIT TO BURMA
Classified By: COM Carmen Martinez for Reasons 1.5 (b,d)
¶1. (C) Summary: Filipino Foreign Secretary Albert made her
debut visit to Burma February 18-19 to get to know her
Burmese counterpart and to resurrect a moribund
Burma-Philippines Joint Commission. Her public remarks were
laudatory of regime road map efforts. However, she did not
meet with the Head of State, and the SPDC, which may view the
Philippines as close to the U.S., gave the visit perfunctory
treatment. This was yet another missed opportunity by an
ASEAN country to encourage the SPDC to make progress on a
political dialogue. End Summary.
¶2. (U) Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Domingo
Albert, at the tail end of a swing through several mainland
ASEAN countries, visited Rangoon February 18-19. During her
24-hour visit Secretary Albert met Prime Minister General
Khin Nyunt and Foreign Minister U Win Aung. Albert will
return to Rangoon in April to participate in a meeting of the
Burma-Philippines Joint Commission that will address
cooperation in human resources development, trade, and
¶3. (C) The Philippines Ambassador to Burma, Phoebe Gomez,
told the COM on Feb. 25 that a primary objective of the visit
was for Albert to “get comfortable” with her Burmese
counterpart, U Win Aung, prior to a March ASEAN retreat in
Hanoi. Gomez said she encouraged the visit as a way to kick
start the Joint Commission, which was set up in 1997 during a
visit of President Ramos but to date has not convened.
Ambassador Gomez also allowed that she had pushed hard for
this visit as she “needed to do something” in Burma,
observing that other ASEAN countries, especially Thailand,
were “very active here.”
¶4. (C) Ambassador Gomez said that the GOP needs to establish
“one to one” channels of communication with the Burmese,
claiming that her government faced difficulties here because
the Philippines is treated differently from the other ASEAN
countries due to a close relationship with the United States.
The Ambassador said she did not press for a meeting between
her Secretary and SPDC Chairman Than Shwe. Gomez intimated
to COM that she was afraid that a meeting might not be
granted because of the perceived relationship with the U.S.
or because the Burmese may be waiting for May Filipino
presidential elections to see what the outcome could mean for
the Philippines-Burma bilateral relationship.
¶5. (U) According to the government-controlled “Myanmar
Times,” in a February 19 interview Secretary Albert said that
the Philippines supports the SPDC’s road map for democracy.
The newspaper quoted the Foreign Secretary as saying “Both
bilaterally and regionally we are good partners… in ASEAN
we help each other to ensure that the vision of (a leader of
a member state) could be implemented.” Ambassador Gomez said
the remarks attributed to Albert were accurate, but the
Filipino DCM told us separately that the quote was not
exactly in line with the Philippines statement issued after
the Bali ASEAN summit last October.
Comment: What Ally?
¶6. (C) We view this visit as another missed opportunity by a
key ASEAN country to encourage the SPDC to make progress on a
political dialogue with the democratic opposition. Part of
the problem may be Ambassador Gomez. She has always been a
little too close for comfort to the regime, hanging with the
generals’ wives and at times appearing to be significantly
out of line with Manila’s Burma policy. Gomez avoids the
opposition groups like the plague and has never tried to meet
with ASSK, even when other ASEAN ambassadors paid ASSK a
courtesy call in May 2002. She told us previously that she
did not like late Foreign Secretary Ople’s critical stance on
Burma, which made life “uncomfortable” for her in Rangoon.