Oct 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MANILA764.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA764
2009-04-14 08:23
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO9009
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0764/01 1040823
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 140823Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3794
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 000764

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/13/2019
TAGS: MARR MOPS PGOV PINR PREL RP
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT GRATEFUL FOR U.S. ASSISTANCE IN HELICOPTER CRASH

REF: MANILA 753

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In the wake of a tragic April 7 helicopter
crash that claimed the lives of eight civilian and military
Malacanang Palace aides, the Ambassador represented the
Mission at a highly emotional April 11 service for the
victims. Clearly shaken by the calamity, an anguished
President Arroyo offered heartfelt thanks for the
instantaneous USG assistance that was put into effect as the
tragedy unfolded. U.S. military assets including both
helicopters and fixed-winged aircraft played a vital role as
search and recovery efforts moved forward in the
storm-wracked and remote mountain region where the helicopter
disappeared, as an Embassy liaison team worked round the
clock with Philippine counterparts at a Philippine Air Force
crisis center to coordinate smooth bilateral
interoperability. The crash has received widespread coverage
in national media; many reports have highlighted key U.S.
assistance. END SUMMARY.

An Emotional Farewell to Trusted Palace Aides
———————————————

¶2. (C) The April 7 tragedy cost the lives of all eight
persons aboard the helicopter belonging to the Presidential
Airlift Wing (reftel), including key Malacanang officials
with close ties to the President such as Presidential
Appointments Secretary Marilou Frostrom, Senior Military Aide
Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, and Press Undersecretary Jose “Jocap”
Capadocia, as well as the helicopter’s three crew members.
In a somber Malacanang Palace ceremony April 11 honoring
victims of the crash, an emotional Philippine President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo thanked the Ambassador “from the
bottom of my heart” for timely U.S. assistance in search and
recovery efforts that ultimately helped locate the remote
crash site in rugged, mountainous terrain in northern Luzon.
Together with the usually more reserved and undemonstrative
President Arroyo, normally taciturn cabinet members and other
high-ranking government officials sobbed openly, and seemed
stunned with grief at the scope of the Palace’s loss.

Rapid, Robust U.S. Response to a Call for Help
——————————————— –

¶3. (C) Soon after Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
personnel alerted their Embassy counterparts that the
Palace’s Bell 412 helicopter was missing, AFP Chief of Staff
Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap,
and other high-ranking administration officials phoned the
Ambassador, who immediately put into action an interagency
crisis team that included all Mission military elements. An
Embassy military liaison team was dispatched to the
Philippine Air Force crisis command center, and worked with
Philippine military colleagues on a 24-hour basis until all
remains were located and recovered on April 9. PACOM acted
quickly and decisively to facilitate USG assistance by
agreeing to the deployment of all U.S. military assets in
country that might prove useful in search and rescue/recovery
efforts.

¶4. (C) The U.S. made available a B-200 reconnaissance
aircraft, a KC-130 from Clark airfield supporting the
Southern Canopy exercise, plus two CH-46 Sea Knight
helicopters present in the Philippines for the April 16-30
Balikatan annual exercise. The CH-46 helicopters arrived in
Baguio at noon Wednesday, April 8, after which they conducted
search and recovery support, as well as providing
transportation for Philippine ground search personnel. The
KC-130 overflew the search and recovery area, providing
coordination and deconfliction of incoming search information
and communication relay for all the aircraft involved in the
search effort. The KC-130’s weather radar was also of great
utility in providing up-to-date meteorological information to
all helicopters; the unpredictable and often-violent weather
of the mountainous Benguet-Ifugao area is thought to have
contributed to the April 7 crash. On April 9 at the
Philippine Presidential Summer Residence in Baguio, President
Arroyo personally thanked the crews of U.S. helicopters for
the vital role they had played in efforts to locate the
downed craft and recover the remains of its passengers and
crew.

Widespread Media Reaction to the Tragedy
—————————————-

¶5. (C) As details of the missing helicopter unfolded, the
story drew widespread attention from print and broadcast

MANILA 00000764 002 OF 002

media nationwide. Leading dailies The Philippine Star and
Philippine Daily Inquirer featured large-print front-page
accounts of the crash on April 9, together with pages-long
supporting articles and sidebars outlining in greater detail
the lives of the eight victims, and the longstanding dangers
to aviation posed by northern Luzon’s mountainous and stormy
Cordillera. A number of articles alluded to USG assistance,
and television reports included footage of U.S. helicopters
operating out of Baguio’s Loakan Airport during search and
recovery operations. Notwithstanding attention focused on
the failed ASEAN summit and other developing stories, media
continue to follow the investigation into the crash. Embassy
officers remain in close touch with Philippine counterparts
as authorities continue to piece together the exact
circumstances that led to the crash.
KENNEY

   

 

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