Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA159 2007-01-12 09:49 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #0159/01 0120949
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120949Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4679
INFO RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH IMMEDIATE 0167
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR IMMEDIATE 0563
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA IMMEDIATE 6576
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 5951
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 3020
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI IMMEDIATE 0024
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI IMMEDIATE 1397
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 000159
M/DHGR FOR JENNY JERAS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ECON EAID AMGT OTRA RP
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF DIRECTOR GENERAL AMBASSADOR GEORGE STAPLES
¶1. A warm welcome to the Philippines! The Manila Mission has
developed a dynamic program for your January 23-26 visit including
many opportunities for you to meet with groups of employees and
individuals, as noted in the schedule submitted to your office.
¶2. Embassy Manila is home to 27 agencies with over 1300 employees.
There are 253 direct hire U.S. employees, and 1,089 Locally Engaged
Staff (LES). The size of the post, variety of positions available,
and excellent schools make Manila a popular post for families and
¶3. Entry Level Officer/Specialist (EL) Program: The Mission has a
very active EL development program, providing ELs with many
opportunities to interact with the Ambassador and DCM and support
them in their travel and activities. ELs attend Diplomatic Skills
brown bag sessions, engage in public speaking and outreach, and sit
as members on post boards and committees. An active mentor program
pairs ELs with mid-level and senior-level officers.
Until December, Consular ELOs in Manila participated in six-month
excursion programs into other sections. Although CA advised these
excursions are not currently possible due to consular work demand,
ELOs have opportunities to interact with other sections and agencies
by attending interagency working groups and meetings and working on
¶4. Local Staff: The Mission employs a large number of local staff,
primarily within the Consular and Management sections, as well as
Veteran’s Affairs (the only VA office outside the U.S.). Many of the
employees have been with the Mission for over a decade. In a
country where the waiting time for some family-based immigrant visas
is over 20 years, employees hold the Special Immigrant Visa
opportunity in especially high regard. The U.S. Embassy Filipino
Employee Association (USEFEA) is active in promoting LES issues and
in scheduling social activities, such as the upcoming annual
basketball tournament. LES were awarded a 2.19 percent salary
increase this month following a salary survey, and the Mission is
awarding a new LES medical insurance contract to improve coverage
effective February 1.
¶5. Eligible Family Member (EFM) Employment: The Mission employs 33
EFMs. In addition, State has approved a new Strategic Networking
Assistance Program (SNAP) Coordinator, and Mission is currently
recruiting to fill this position. Mission hopes that this position
will assist more EFMs to find jobs, either on the local economy or
working from home.
Quality of Life Issues
¶6. Housing: Mission employees live on the Seafront compound, in
gated communities, and in high-rise apartment buildings. Apartments
and townhouses have access to gyms and swimming pools, while
individual homes may have pools and usually have other facilities
available within their gated neighborhoods.
¶7. Schools: Manila offers excellent educational options. 110
children attend the International School of Manila (ISM), 26 attend
the Brent International School, and a few children attend other
international schools, or are home-schooled. AmeriKids preschool is
located on the Seafront Compound, and is open to American Recreation
¶8. ISM has struggled with management issues in the last year,
resulting in the previous school board firing the school
superintendent, teachers walking out in dispute, and subsequent
replacement of the board. The DCM is a very active member of the new
board, and parents will vote on proposed improvements to ISM
governance in February.
¶9. Medical Care: The Mission community utilizes our main clinic at
the Seafront Compound and a smaller unit on the Chancery Compound,
as well as many other local providers. The Mission community visits
many local physicians who have completed some of their medical
training in the U.S., adhere to U.S. standards, and use
state-of-the-art testing equipment. Major health issues at post
include tuberculosis, dengue fever, and gastrointestinal infections.
Respiratory problems are very common due to heavy air pollution,
mold caused by the humidity, and allergies due to tropical flora.
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The Office of Medical Services does not recommend Manila as a post
for individuals with uncontrolled or severe asthma.
¶10. Transportation: The Mission has a large motor pool and offers
shuttle services for employees to and from their homes. Traffic is
unpredictable and heavy in Manila, and with new construction in some
areas, is expected to worsen. Commute time for many mission
employees is over 30 minutes, and during evening hours or rain can
be much longer.
¶11. Natural Disasters: The Philippines has suffered many natural
disasters in the past year, and the Mission has provided recovery
support to the host country government. Typhoon Milenyo hit Manila
in September, leaving many Mission employees without water and
electricity for days. GSO provided significant support throughout,
arranging hotel lodging to those without services and utilizing a
variety of methods to maintain contact with the Mission community
throughout the disaster.
¶12. The Philippines, with almost 90 million people, has one of the
fastest growing populations in Asia. Metro-Manila, home to 12
million people, is the largest city in a country made up of over
7,000 mainly mountainous islands.
The Philippines was a Spanish colony for almost 400 years, and,
following the Spanish-American War, became a U.S. colony and
subsequently commonwealth. The U.S. granted independence in 1946.
Filipinos have generally very positive feelings about the U.S.
There are 2-4 million Filipino-Americans in the U.S., and Manila is
one of the largest visa-issuing posts in the world. There are also
an estimated 120,000 Americans living in the Philippines, plus
approximately 100,000 American visitors at any moment.
¶13. Political: The Philippines political situation has been
turbulent at times, including unsuccessful impeachment efforts in
September 2005 and September 2006, and a thwarted coup plot that led
to President Arroyo’s week-long declaration of a “State of National
Emergency” in February 2006. President Arroyo has since
strengthened her political position as the economy has improved.
Meanwhile, political leaders are focusing on mid-term Congressional
elections this May. President Arroyo’s term of office ends in
¶14. Economics and Trade: The U.S. remains the Philippines’ largest
overall trading partner, with about $16 billion in two-way
merchandise trade. Major U.S. exports include electronics and
agriculture. The U.S. is also the largest investor here, with over
$6 billion in assets.
Over the last year, the Philippines has been economically stable and
has made progress on reducing its massive government debt, still
about 90 percent of GDP. The Millennium Challenge Corporation has
designated the Philippines as a Threshold Country, and the U.S. and
Philippine governments in 2006 signed a $21 million agreement under
that program, focused on anti-corruption initiatives.
The United States is the largest donor of foreign aid to the
Philippines, chiefly through the programs of USAID. The primary
goals of U.S. development assistance are to assist in economic
growth, anti-corruption, environmental protection, poverty
alleviation, education, and health. The Philippines hosts the
second-oldest Peace Corps program in the world (established in
1961), and over one hundred volunteers currently serve throughout
¶15. Security and Terrorism: The Philippines is home to three
organizations the U.S. designates as Foreign Terrorist groups:
Jemaah Islamiyah, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the New People’s Army.
The first two groups are most active in the poor and predominately
Muslim regions of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. Mission
members may not travel in Mindanao without special RSO approval.
The Mission works closely with the Philippine government to develop
the capacity of the police and Armed Forces of the Philippines to
combat terrorists. USAID devotes nearly 60 percent of its $70
million FY06 assistance budget to the southern islands of Mindanao,
where it focuses on reintegrating former combatants and promoting
economic growth, business opportunities, education, health and local
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governance. USAID has carried out a range of highly successful
programs, including “Arms to Farms,” which reintegrated over 28,000
former fighters back into civil society as successful farmers.
¶16. Recent Marine Case: Following a guilty verdict in a highly
publicized case against a U.S. Marine on rape charges in December,
Filipino police apprehended and jailed the U.S. serviceman, in
violation of the 1999 U.S. – Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement
(VFA). In explicit recognition of the value the Philippine
government places on its strategic alliance with the U.S. in the
fight against terror and poverty, as well as the importance of
upholding obligations under international agreements, the Philippine
government relinquished custody of the Marine back to the U.S.
Embassy even without court approval. The case is now at the appeals
¶17. Mission Manila appreciates the amount of time you have allotted
for your trip in Manila. Individuals are signing up to meet with
you, and groups look forward to hearing from you, and sharing
thoughts with you as well.