Oct 272014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/05/09MANILA1000.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1000
2009-05-08 08:45
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #1000/01 1280845
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 080845Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4064
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANILA 001000

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: FOREIGN SECRETARY PRAISES REGIONAL DISASTER RELIEF EXERCISE

REF: A. MANILA 986 (AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH NEW CHIEF OF
THE ARMED FORCES)
¶B. MANILA 985 (ICRC HOSTAGE: 100 DAYS AND COUNTING)
¶C. MANILA 920 (FOREIGN SECRETARY ON PEACE PROCESS
ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION AND ASEAN)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In a private breakfast May 8, Foreign
Secretary Alberto Romulo exuded pride at the Philippines’
successful hosting of the ASEAN Regional Forum disaster
response exercises, which concluded this week (septel). He
expressed deep appreciation that EAP Deputy Assistant
Secretary Scot Marciel attended the exercises, calling it a
demonstration of strong U.S. support for the initiative. To
help others understand the depth of U.S. commitment to the
Philippines, Secretary Romulo requested statistics on the
impact of U.S. civilian projects through Balikatan and other
bilateral humanitarian exercises, for his use at anticipated
Philippine Senate hearings on the Visiting Forces Agreement.
The Foreign Secretary lamented the lack of cooperation from
the Red Cross on the Jolo hostage investigations, which was
hindering rescue of the remaining hostage and government
efforts to put an end to the crisis (ref B). While the Jolo
situation underscored continued challenges in combating
terrorism, Secretary Romulo relayed President Arroyo’s
concern about the designation of the Philippines as a “safe
haven” in the State Department 2008 Country Reports on
Terrorism, which the Ambassador pointed out is not a new
development and does not single out the Philippines.
Reiterating earlier requests, Romulo underscored President
Arroyo’s desire to meet President Obama in mid-June, and said
Filipinos would be “thrilled” to welcome Secretary Clinton to
the Philippines on her next trip to the region. The
government remained committed to passing the Millennium
Challenge Corporation indicators, the Foreign Secretary
emphasized, and would embark on a campaign to raise awareness
about its reforms. END SUMMARY.

ARF-VDR EXERCISE A SUCCESS
—————————

¶2. (C) In a private May 8 breakfast, Foreign Secretary
Alberto Romulo said the ASEAN Regional Forum Voluntary
Demonstration of Response (ARF-VDR) exercises were a success
(septel), and that the Philippines was pleased to have
welcomed U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Scot Marciel during
the exercises. Romulo expressed hope that another country
would host the exercises next year and build on the disaster
relief capacity and lessons-learned in the Philippines.
While dismayed about the limited press coverage of ARF-VDR,
he said he was still proud that the Philippine government had
succeeded in such a complex undertaking. The Ambassador
congratulated Romulo on the successful exercises, which
demonstrated the need and the potential for greater
multilateral cooperation in the region, and said the U.S. was
glad to have partnered with the Philippines on this important
initiative.

PREPARING FOR HEARINGS ON VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT
——————————————— ——

¶3. (C) In preparation for expected Philippine Senate hearings
on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Secretary Romulo
asked the Ambassador for additional data demonstrating the
direct benefits of Balikatan and other humanitarian bilateral
exercises to the people of the Philippines, including
measurements like the number of schools built, number of
wells dug, and kilometers of roads completed. This
information would clearly illustrate the extent of assistance
to communities across the country resulting from the VFA,
including programs in places like Albay province, which
Secretary Romulo described as a great success. The
Ambassador offered to provide the information in support of
the hearings, and agreed with the Secretary’s glowing
assessment of the recently concluded Balikatan exercises,
noting that the medical and engineering services provided
during Balikatan demonstrated the overall value of our
partnership (septel).

CONCERN FOR ONGOING HOSTAGE CRISIS IN JOLO
——————————————

¶4. (C) Secretary Romulo and the Ambassador agreed that it was
important to resolve the hostage crisis in Jolo, where an
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker was
still held by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ref B).
Secretary Romulo expressed concern the ICRC was not

cooperating with legal authorities to build a case against
the Abu Sayyaf abductors. The Ambassador suggested that the
May 7 killing of the Sulu provincial police chief signified
declining security conditions on the island, to which an
uneasy police-military alliance and a crowded field of
hostage negotiators may have contributed. She emphasized it
was important to turn the situation around through more
decisive action once the hostage crisis was resolved. Her
recent discussions with Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief
of Staff Lt. General Victor Ibrado (ref A), the Ambassador
said, addressed the need for more civil-military
collaboration in Jolo, which could help improve security
conditions and support economic development.

ARROYO CONCERNED ABOUT “SAFE HAVEN” DESIGNATION
——————————————— —

¶5. (C) Turning to the State Department’s 2008 Country Reports
on Terrorism, Secretary Romulo said that he thought the
report was “positive and balanced” overall, but noted that
President Arroyo had asked Executive Secretary Ermita, Chair
of the government’s Anti-Terrorism Council, and other cabinet
members to register their formal concern with the Ambassador
about the designation of the Philippines as a “safe haven”
for terrorists. The Ambassador suggested that the label
“safe haven,” which has been used in every Terrorism Report
since 2005, was being viewed out of context. The Ambassador
noted that the Congressionally-mandated report, which focuses
on U.S. counter terrorism efforts, gives a positive
assessment of the Philippines and other allies that are also
fighting terrorism, including Colombia, Brazil, and
Argentina. While the report is not an exhaustive accounting
of the Philippines’ situation, it nonetheless documents an
understanding between the two countries about the need to
combat terrorism in the Philippines.

SEEKING OVAL OFFICE MEETING, SECSTATE VISIT
——————————————-

¶6. (C) Secretary Romulo reiterated President Arroyo’s strong
interest in an Oval Office meeting with President Obama, and
suggested June 7-18 as a possible window for a visit. The
Ambassador encouraged Romulo to approach a potential visit as
an entry point for a deeper dialogue with the U.S. on
environmental issues, agriculture, defeating extremism, and
other topics. Romulo also expressed hope that Secretary
Clinton would visit the Philippines on her next trip to Asia,
commenting that Filipinos are drawn to her personality and
would be “thrilled” to welcome her. The Ambassador said that
she would pass on the Secretary’s request.

FOCUSING ON MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE INDICATORS
——————————————-

¶7. (C) The Philippine government was now focusing on the need
to pass the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
indicators, Secretary Romulo said, in advance of the MCC
board meeting later this year. The Ambassador remarked that
while ongoing MCC visits might focus on more technical
issues, passing the indicators was really the key step for
pursuing a compact. Secretary Romulo said that a team would
travel to France to demonstrate to officials there how the
Philippines was improving its performance corruption and
other indicators.

KENNEY

   

 

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