Oct 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/01/08MANILA141.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA141
2008-01-17 22:17
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO5467
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O 172217Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9432
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE IMMEDIATE 7317
RHHMHAA/USCINCPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 000141

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/16/2017
TAGS: MARR MAS MCAP PREL RP
SUBJECT: RECORD YEAR FOR U.S. NAVY SHIP VISITS UNDERSCORES U.S. COMMITMENT

REF: A. 07 MANILA 03964
¶B. 07 MANILA 02591
¶C. 07 MANILA 00630

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The year 2007 brought a dramatic rise in U.S.
Navy ship visits to the Philippines, as 81 U.S. Navy vessels
visited 9 ports throughout the Philippines — the most since
the closure of U.S. military bases in 1992 — and underscored
our strong bilateral relationship, making the Philippines one
of the leading destinations for U.S. Navy ports of call in
the region. A far cry from traditional former “liberty”
ports of call, U.S. Navy ship visits to the Philippines
evolved into a highly effective public diplomacy tool in
¶2007. Playing an increasingly visible role in the continuing
USG commitment to the Philippines and coordinated closely
with the Mission, such visits allow U.S. Navy personnel to
engage with Philippine political and military leadership at
the local and national level and have proven valuable in
promoting the Mission’s agenda to use community relations and
humanitarian projects to build goodwill and future access, as
well as to provide traditional military training. In
addition to their training and humanitarian value, ship
visits have an important direct economic impact, putting an
estimated USD 8 million into the Philippine economy in 2007,
much of it in impoverished and under-served areas. Recent
ship visits have gained such prominence that during the
Ambassador’s December 17 meeting with Foreign Secretary
Alberto Romulo, he mentioned he looked forward to the return
visit of the USNS Mercy in 2008 and asked if a U.S. aircraft
carrier could visit the Philippines soon, as he would “love a
chance to get on board” (ref A). Such enthusiasm on the
part of Philippine officials for U.S. Navy presence stands in
contrast to skepticism among a small group of elites and
leftists who are suspicious of U.S. intentions in the
Philippines and of U.S. military personnel’s respect for
Philippine law. Because of their temporary, short-term
nature and the many benefits they bring, continued, frequent
U.S. Navy ship visits to the Philippines help counter that
criticism, and the Mission remains very committed to
supporting them in the future. END SUMMARY.

——————————————— ——-
COMMUNITY RELATIONS TAKES A FRONT SEAT DURING VISITS
——————————————— ——-

¶2. (C) The 81 U.S. Navy ships that made visits to 9 ports
throughout the Philippines in 2007 are the most since the
Subic Bay Naval Base closure in 1992 and highlight U.S.
progress in rebuilding our political and defense relationship
with the Philippines. Port visits spanned the entire range
of the Philippine Archipelago, from Subic Bay north of Manila
to Cebu, Legazpi City, and Dumaguete in central Philippines,
and Zamboanga, and General Santos City in southern Mindanao.
In addition to the traditional military training such as ship
boarding techniques and amphibious landings conducted with
their Philippine counterparts, U.S. Navy personnel undertook
numerous community relations activities. Working with
Philippine officials to identify neglected areas, sailors and
Marines renovated schools, conducted medical projects, and
donated needed supplies to local residents. As a result of
these efforts, the Philippines ranks first in southeast Asia
in the number of humanitarian and infrastructure projects
conducted by the U.S. Navy and Marines during ship visits.
We strongly believe that these relatively inexpensive
activities are critical to ensuring future access to these
ports and deflecting leftist and elitist critiques of U.S.-
Philippine military engagement. Apart from the value of
military training and humanitarian programs, the ships pumped
an estimated USD 8 million this year into the local economies
while in port.

—————————————-
SHOWCASING U.S. MILITARY PROFESSIONALISM
—————————————-

¶3. (C) Several of the ship visits were conducted in support
of three successful and well-received major training
exercises with the Philippine military: Cooperation Afloat
Readiness and Training 2007, Balikatan 2007, and Philippine
Bilateral Exercise 2007. Just as these exercises and the
accompanying ship visits helped the U.S. Navy sustain its

MANILA 00000141 002 OF 003

long-time role in training the Philippine military forces in
surface, air, and amphibious operations, the less-
traditional humanitarian assistance missions conducted by
thousands of sailors and Marines provided an effective
platform to showcase U.S. military professionalism to
Philippine officials. Working with U.S. Navy personnel to
maximize the impact of the visits, the Ambassador and DCM
have accompanied senior Philippine officials such as
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Philippine Secretary
of National Defense, and Filipino Congressmen on board the
vessels, allowing Philippine officials a chance to experience
the Navy’s hospitality and to have first-hand contact with
sailors, Marines, and officers.

————————————–
SUPPORTING MISSION EFFORTS IN MINDANAO
————————————–

¶4. (C) U.S. engagement with the Philippines in strife-torn
Mindanao benefited from two ports of call, in particular. In
February 2007, the USS Blue Ridge became the first U.S. Navy
vessel to pay a port call to the southern Mindanao city of
General Santos in 15 years. Linking up with local civic
groups and the Philippine military, the crew conducted
community relations activities in the immediate vicinity,
renovating two schools and completing construction of a
third. At each location, the Ambassador and U.S. Seventh
Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Crowder presented educational
and recreational equipment to local charities. USS Blue
Ridge personnel, along with USAID and JSOTF-P personnel,
conducted a medical civil action program that provided free
treatment to over 600 patients. The Ambassador and
Vice-Admiral Crowder co-hosted a reception aboard the USS
Blue Ridge that was well attended by a diverse group of local
officials, including the Governor of Sulu, who traveled from
Jolo Island to plead his case for a similar ship visit to his
province, an area that has been a stronghold for Muslim
terrorists from the Abu Sayyaf Group. Other local and
provincial leaders emphasized that sustained U.S involvement
in the social and economic improvement of Mindanao has led to
increased peace and stability in the region (ref C).

¶5. (C) A second Mindanao visit in July 2007 by the USS
Peleliu off the coast of Cotabato, a location not normally
visited by U.S. Navy vessels, also garnered tremendous
positive publicity for U.S. involvement. The USS Peleliu,
part of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Partnership for Peace
initiative, built on the success of the 2006 USNS Mercy
visit. During the visit, the Ambassador and USS Peleliu
commander hosted a reception aboard the vessel and local
officials (largely Muslim) and their spouses were flown by
helicopters to the USS Peleliu’s offshore anchorage. Initial
nervousness quickly gave way to wide smiles as the passengers
enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime, low-level flight that helped
forge a closer bond between the U.S. military and their
civilian Philippine counterparts (ref B) — a bond that
continues to pay dividends for Joint Special Operations Task
Force-Philippines and USAID personnel working in the area.
Ship visits to Mindanao with strong humanitarian and
community relations components powerfully underscore U.S.
support for peace and prosperity in that conflict and
terrorist ridden region.

————————————
ENHANCING OUR BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP
————————————

¶6. (C) Other standout visits in 2007 included the USS
Connecticut to Subic Bay in October, the first U.S. Navy
nuclear submarine to visit the Philippines in seven years,
and the USS Reuben James to Dumaguete in the central
Philippines in November, the first U.S. Navy vessel to make a
port of call there since 1995. To capitalize on the
opportunity to invite Philippine government officials aboard
a U.S. nuclear vessel, the Ambassador hosted a lunch aboard
the submarine with Undersecretary of Defense Antonio Santos
and Undersecretary Edilberto Adan, head of the Commission on
Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). As the VFA has been a
contentious issue with some Philippine elites, Adan’s
interaction with U.S. Navy officers and crew was invaluable
in reinforcing our message that our military holds itself to
the highest standards of professional conduct. The local
impact of the ship visits was seen clearly during the USS

MANILA 00000141 003 OF 003

Reuben James visit to Dumaguete. While the commander of the
USS Reuben James hosted a reception for local leaders that
was widely covered in the local press, the crew was feted by
residents during an ongoing local holiday celebration with a
luncheon in their honor and invitations to participate in
festival activities.

——————
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
——————

¶7. (C) The medical mission of the USNS Mercy in the southern
Philippines from May to June 2006 was a watershed event,
reaching some of the poorest and most under-served areas of
the country, and attracting front page news across the
country. The outstanding medical care and humanitarian
assistance provided during the visit directly served some
50,000 local patients in Zamboanga, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi, and
was a huge boon to efforts by JSOTF-P, USAID, and other U.S.
agencies to encourage the Philippine military to adopt
civil-military relations in the Mindanao region as an
effective deterrent to terrorist recruitment. Since the
success of the USNS Mercy visit, the Philippine military and
JSOTF-P have continued their civil-military efforts,
conducting 97 medical assistance projects serving more than
44,000 people in the Mindanao region in 2007. Taking a page
from their U.S. counterparts, the Philippine Armed Forces
established the National Development Support Command in
October 2007 to conduct civil-military operations throughout
the country (septel). The Mission looks forward to the
return of the USNS Mercy to the Philippines in 2008, and
Foreign Secretary Romulo recently expressed his desire for
USNS Mercy’s return visit to the Ambassador (ref A).

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) As evidenced by the many productive ship visits to the
Philippines in 2007, the U.S. Navy has demonstrated a
creative and innovative approach towards engagement with the
Philippine government. A far cry from traditional “liberty”
ports of call of the past, in 2007 Navy ship visits to the
Philippines evolved into a highly effective public diplomacy
tool, playing a key role in promoting our bilateral
relationship and complementing the Philippine and U.S.
efforts to use soft and hard power to bolster the Philippine
fight against terrorism. Analysis of recent opinion polling
and public commentary makes clear the Philippine public is
strongly supportive of the current security relationship with
the United States, especially joint military exercises and
port visits. At the same time, small but influential
minorities remain deeply suspicious that the United States
intends to reestablish permanent bases in the Philippines, a
step that these groups oppose vigorously. There also is
skepticism among the general public that U.S. service
personnel respect the laws and customs of the Philippines, a
persistent holdover from an earlier era. For precisely these
reasons, the Mission believes that continued, frequent U.S.
Navy visits to the Philippines are valuable — their
temporary, short-term nature and the many positive benefits
that the communities near the ports of call enjoy provide a
strong counter-argument to the skeptics. The community
relations events conducted by the U.S. Navy and Marines,
coupled with exemplary behavior by the crews in the last
year, made the 2007 ship visits a resounding success. As a
result of the significant positive feedback in 2007, the U.S.
Navy is considering a further increase in the number of
Philippine port visits this year, which the Mission fully
supports. END COMMENT.
KENNEY

   

 

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