Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
DE RUEHML #0249/01 0370056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 060056Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3087
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1429
UNCLAS MANILA 000249
USDA FOR SECRETARY THOMAS JAMES VILSACK
STATE PASS USTR FOR WEISEL
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD EAID RP
SUBJECT: Proposed U.S. Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines
Ref: 08 Manila 820
¶1. Summary: Post has received a copy of a letter from Philippine
Secretary of Agriculture Arthur Yap congratulating U.S. Secretary of
Agriculture Thomas Vilsack on his confirmation (full text of letter
in para 7). The letter encourages a U.S. agribusiness trade and
investment mission to the Philippines in the first half of 2009.
Post recommends that, if his schedule allows, Secretary Vilsack
accept Secretary Yap’s invitation and lead such a mission to the
Philippines. End summary.
¶2. The Philippines is a key market in Southeast Asia for U.S.
agricultural exports, with record sales of over $1.7 billion in FY
¶2008. The top U.S. exports last year were wheat ($639 million);
soybean and soybean meal ($335 million) and dairy ($223 million). A
net food importer, the Philippines is the second largest market in
Southeast Asia and the 17th largest global market for U.S.
agricultural products. The United States is the top food and
beverage supplier to the Philippines. Agriculture is also important
to the Philippine economy, accounting for approximately 18.3 percent
of Philippine GDP and employing over 11.5 million workers (one-third
of the workforce).
¶3. The Philippines has demonstrated support for U.S. agricultural
interests, including statements on food aid and monetization in the
WTO. In 2007 it became the first market in Asia to permit market
access for U.S. beef and beef products of all cuts and ages
following the 2003 detection of BSE in the United States. The
Philippines is the first and only Asian country to approve the
planting of a biotechnology food crop (corn) and remains a
consistent supporter of rational, science-based regulations in many
international agencies dealing with biotechnology.
¶4. USDA has a long history of providing technical assistance to the
Philippines. In 2008, the Philippines was the largest recipient of
Food for Progress grants, which totaled over $24 million to help
develop the local dairy, rice, coconut, coffee and cocoa sectors.
The Philippines will again be a priority food aid country for FY
¶2009. The Philippines is the largest recipient of USDA food aid
programs in Asia, with PL 480 Title I allocations reaching $200
million (cumulative) since FY 2000. USDA has also provided
assistance to the Philippines via the Cochran Fellowship Program and
the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and
Technology Fellows Program, and through regional workshops and
training offered through international organizations. In 2008, the
Philippines obtained a $75 million export credit guarantee, under
GSM 102, which it used to buy some 72,000 metric tons of rice from
the United States.
¶5. In 2008, USDA Secretary Edward Schafer and the Philippine
Department of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap signed a Memorandum
of Agreement on Cooperation in Agriculture and Related Fields. The
new Agreement established an enhanced cooperative relationship in
agricultural technical assistance and trade capacity building with a
focus on assisting the Philippines to revitalize its agricultural
sector, particularly in Mindanao.
¶6. There are also difficult market access issues with the
Philippines. At present, the Philippines is proposing changes to
its tariff rate quota system (affecting especially U.S. exports of
pork and poultry) which could be very problematic for U.S.
suppliers. We believe a visit by Secretary Vilsack to the
Philippines in the first half of 2009 would provide valuable
leverage on this issue, as well as enhancing U.S.-Philippines
Agricultural ties. There has not been a visit of a U.S. Secretary
of Agriculture to the Philippines in recent years.
¶7. Begin text of Yap’s letter:
January 20, 2009
Honorable Secretary Thomas James Vilsack
United States Trade Department of Agriculture
United States of America
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
It is with great pleasure that I congratulate you on your
confirmation as Agriculture Secretary. I wish you the best and look
forward to working with you in making agriculture a pillar of the
strong relationship between our countries.
Prior to your appointment, a U.S. agribusiness trade and investment
mission to the Philippines was scheduled in the latter part of 2008
but was postponed for the first semester of 2009. It would be
fitting for you to lead this mission which can give both our
agribusiness sectors a boost while exploring further areas of
On this occasion, we would be pleased to show you the country’s
gains in food security through gains in rice, fisheries and
The month of March is an opportune time for you and your delegation
to visit the Philippines. Please let us know if this proposal will
work for you.
Finally, we hope for the best as we work towards revitalizing our
countries’ strong strategic partnership in agricultural cooperation.
One mechanism is through joint implementation of the Memorandum of
Agreement (MOA) on Agriculture and Related Fields which our agencies
have entered onto on June 24, 2008 and whose signing was witnessed
by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during her working visit to the
United States. Collaboration particularly in science and technology
to advance agricultural productivity and trade is one common
interest we can enhance further.
Thank you and best wishes.
Very truly yours,
Arthur C. Yap
End text. (We understand that the original letter was delivered
directly from the Philippine Embassy Washington DC to the U.S.
Agriculture Secretary’s Office.)