Oct 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/02/09MANILA239.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA239
2009-02-04 07:24
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO2393
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0239/01 0350724
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 040724Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3077
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000239

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2019
TAGS: OVIP PGOV PREL RP BA
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT ARROYO’S TRAVEL TO WASHINGTON

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo has made last-minute plans to travel to Washington
later this week to attend the 2009 National Prayer Breakfast
on Thursday, February 5 and meet with members of the U.S.
Congress. President Arroyo, like so many around the world,
has been eager to engage with President Obama, his cabinet,
and the new U.S. Congress. The last-minute Prayer Breakfast
provided an opportunity she didn’t want to miss. President
Arroyo is currently traveling in Europe and the Middle East,
to attend the Davos World Economic forum and meet with Saudi
and Bahraini officials to discuss Filipino overseas workers
in the region. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) Presidential Press Secretary Cerge Remonde outlined
that Arroyo had received formal invitations January 30, prior
to her departure for Davos, from several members of Congress.
President Arroyo, now approaching her last year in office,
likely sees in the Prayer Breakfast a not-to-be-missed
opportunity to engage the new administration, and she may
seek to gauge congressional sentiment on a number of issues
at the forefront of U.S.-Philippine relations. Fresh from
World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, where she called for
a more proactive U.S. role in addressing the global economic
crisis, President Arroyo will no doubt wish to discuss trade
issues and other economic matters, including a compact with
the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Although the
Philippines qualified in 2006 for a $21 million, two-year MCC
threshold program in good governance, the MCC announced in
December 2008 that any signing of a compact would have to
await greater progress in addressing corruption. Another
bilateral matter Arroyo may wish to raise regards legislation
pending in the U.S. Congress that would enhance benefits for
Filipino World War II veterans who fought alongside American
servicemen; this has remained a high-profile issue in
Philippine national media.

PHILIPPINES NOT IMMUNE TO GLOBAL ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN
——————————————— —–

¶3. (C) After topping 7 percent economic growth in 2007, the
Philippine gross domestic product slowed in 2008 to
approximately 5 percent. Philippine businesses as well as
several U.S. companies, including Intel, have recently
announced plant closures and large-scale layoffs, and
economic pain from the recession is widening. Should the
global economic downturn be prolonged, the impact on poverty
in the Philippines, where almost half the population lives on
less than $2.00/day, could be significant, leading to further
social unrest and deteriorating domestic security. On the
positive side, the Philippine banking system is relatively
sound and not heavily exposed to risks from current global
financial turmoil. The U.S. remains the Philippines’ largest
trading partner, with over $17 billion in two-way trade
during 2007. The U.S. is also the largest investor here,
with $6.6 billion in equity. Liberalization of the
restrictive Philippine regime for foreign investment is
currently under discussion. It would be useful to impress on
President Arroyo (an economist by training) that further
opening of the Philippine economy to international trade and
investment would help her country prepare for, and take
advantage of, increasing growth when the world economy begins
to recover from the current downturn.

MINDANAO PEACE PROCESS — PROGRESS NEEDED
—————————————–

¶4. (C) Although peace talks with separatist Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) insurgents have remained stalled
since bitter fighting broke out in August, prospects look
good for a resumption of negotiations in April. Groundwork
already proceeding includes a reconstituted government peace
panel, a newly-appointed chief negotiator, back-channel
communications with Muslim rebels, and overtures to Malaysia
and other nations on an active role as mediator in
facilitating renewed talks. A firmly reestablished ceasefire
and renewed peace talks would create a more positive
atmosphere for talks and allow tens of thousands of displaced
people to return home. In public remarks January 20,
President Arroyo stated that 2009 would be a “comeback year
for peace;” she must continue to emphasize to all
stakeholders that a robust Peace Process between the
Philippine government and the MILF will encourage stability
in the region and enhance economic development.

PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS
———————-

¶5. (C) President Arroyo has consistently expressed her
commitment to making greater progress on the longstanding

MANILA 00000239 002 OF 002

problem of extrajudicial killings, and has taken concrete
steps in this direction. Partly due to increased attention
by the Philippine government, the number of extrajudicial
killings decreased dramatically through 2007 and 2008, but
greater efforts are needed. While many execution-style
slayings among politicians and others are likely a result of
local disputes and longstanding fueds among rival clans, the
goverment needs to do more to ensure that all such crimes —
whether or not linked to security forces — are fully
investigated, and that those responsible are brought to
justice. The Embassy continues to press the issue at the
highest levels of the Philippine government, and is
implementing a comprehensive plan of public-outreach
activities, training, and institution-building to make
further progress in addressing the problem.
KENNEY

   

 

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