Oct 172014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MANILA833.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA833
2009-04-20 08:23
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO3897
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0833/01 1100823
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 200823Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3860
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000833

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2019
TAGS: MARR PGOV PREL RP BM
SUBJECT: FOREIGN SECRETARY ON ASEAN, BURMA, AND UPCOMING VFA HEARING

REF: A. MANILA 645
¶B. MANILA 495

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a candid and free-ranging April 17
private discussion over breakfast with the Ambassador,
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo expressed
disappointment that recent ASEAN meetings in Thailand had to
be canceled due to antigovernment protests, and he
underscored President Arroyo’s high-profile public efforts to
urge the Burmese junta to move toward democratization and
release long-detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Romulo provided the Ambassador a copy of the Department of
Foreign Affairs’ April 17 press release calling for Suu Kyi’s
release, greater tolerance toward opposition forces and
minority ethnic groups, and a return to the regime’s
long-dormant “roadmap to democracy.” The Foreign Secretary
expressed interest in the upcoming visit of a Millennium
Challenge Corporation team; the Ambassador responded by
noting that it was important not to raise public expectations
at this early stage. Romulo was forthright in his concern
that Visiting Forces Agreement hearings to be held April 23
in the Philippine Senate might turn into a criticism session
by leftist NGOs. Lastly, he repeated that President Arroyo
keenly desires an Oval Office meeting with President Obama.
END SUMMARY.

Clear Disappointment on Aborted ASEAN Meetings
——————————————— –

¶2. (C) The Foreign Secretary was frank in expressing his
disappointment that April 10-12 ASEAN meetings in Pattaya,
Thailand, were cut short due to violent protests by
supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Of
particular concern was the cancellation of meetings that were
to be held between ASEAN members and China, Japan, and Korea,
in order to organize a planned $120 billion equity fund (to
be underwritten primarily by the three Northeast Asian
economic powers) that would be made available to ASEAN member
states to address liquidity problems brought on by the global
financial crisis (reftel B). Secretary Romulo lamented that
the Philippine delegation had hoped to discuss the fund with
the three Northeast powers. Secretary Romulo also remarked
that although President Arroyo’s delegation, who were
evacuated from the summit hotel’s rooftop by helicopter,
never felt as though they were in any serious danger, the
scene was nonetheless chaotic, and Thai police seemed poorly
organized and lacking in motivation.

Arroyo Pressures Burma on Aung San Suu Kyi
——————————————

¶3. (C) Romulo outlined how Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein
had invited President Arroyo to visit Burma, to which Arroyo
responded positively — on the condition that her visit
coincide with the release of detained opposition leader Aung
San Suu Kyi, whose current term of house arrest is due to
expire in May. In the Department of Foreign Affairs’ April
17 press release, President Arroyo strongly and clearly
emphasized how Suu Kyi’s release and greater tolerance toward
opposition political parties and rebellious ethnic minorities
would result in “tremendous goodwill for Myanmar from the
international community.” The statement goes on to say that
Prime Minister Thein Sein promised to take into consideration
President Arroyo’s suggestions, and that Burma considered its
cooperation with the UN to be the cornerstone of its foreign
policy. President Arroyo welcomed Sein’s response, and
highlighted that the Philippines’ views on Burma were very
similar to those of the UN and the United States.

Managing Expectations on MCC
—————————-

¶4. (C) Turning to the subject of the Millennium Challenge
Corporation (MCC), Romulo and the Ambassador discussed the
upcoming visit to the Philippines of an MCC technical level
team. Romulo speculated on the prospect of the Philippines’
signing a full-fledged MCC assistance compact, after progress
toward a compact was deferred last year due to the country’s
below-average corruption ratings. The Ambassador warned that
this is not a formal visit, and it would be counterproductive
for the Philippine government to raise expectations publicly
about MCC assistance.

The Search for Job Opportunities
——————————–
¶5. (C) Romulo noted the Ambassador,s recent visit to the

MANILA 00000833 002 OF 002

call center operations of several American companies in
Baguio, and revealed that he was very unfamiliar with the
proliferation of business process outsourcing operations in
the Philippines. He was, for example, unaware that only
India rivals the Philippines as a location for such
operations linked to American companies. The Ambassador
encouraged the Foreign Secretary to learn more about an
industry that is beneficial to both the U.S. and Philippine
economies, and urged him to tour at least one call center to
better understand what they do and why they are an important
economic link to the rest of the world. Continuing with the
theme of jobs, Romulo noted that during President Arroyo’s
recent visit to Dubai, she received assurances that thousands
of jobs await Filipino Overseas Workers there.

Worries Over VFA Hearings in Senate
———————————–

¶6. (C) Touching on the annual Balikatan bilateral military
exercise, set this year to be carried out April 16-30 in the
Bicol region and northern Luzon, Romulo explained that
conflicting events in his schedule precluded his
participation at opening ceremonies. Turning to the subject
of hearings to begin April 23 in the Philippine Senate on
possible abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),
the Foreign Secretary confessed his fear that in a political
atmosphere already charged with anticipation of 2010
elections, certain senators might vie to be the most
outspoken in criticizing U.S.-Philippine military
cooperation, and he expressed his hope that he could go into
the hearings armed with comprehensive information outlining
the many benefits to the Philippines of its close
relationship with the United States. The Ambassador offered
to provide the Department of Foreign Affairs sufficient
materials to make that task easier.

¶7. (C) As the conversation drew to a close, the Foreign
Secretary alluded once again to President Arroyo’s cordial
and productive March 13 phone conversation with President
Obama, which had highlighted a number of key areas of
bilateral cooperation, including global climate change and
U.S.-Philippine counterterrorism efforts. Echoing sentiments
he expressed in a March 24 luncheon conversation with the
Ambassador (reftel A), Romulo again underscored President
Arroyo’s very strong desire for a face-to-face meeting with
President Obama in the Oval Office.
KENNEY

   

 

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