Sep 212014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/10/07MANILA3307.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA3307
2007-10-03 07:49
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO5021
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #3307/01 2760749
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 030749Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8477
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003307

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/04/2017
TAGS: PGOV RP ECON BEXP
SUBJECT: SOME MINDANAO BUSINESSES BOOM DESPITE DANGERS

Classified By: DCM Paul W. Jones, for reasons 1.4 (a) and (d)

¶1. (U) Summary: The DCM led an Embassy team to General
Santos City on September 21 to focus attention on U.S.
support for commerce in Mindanao. The DCM delivered the
keynote address at a 500-strong gathering of the region’s
chambers of commerce. He told leaders that the recently
announced $190 million in U.S. assistance demonstrates our
interest in partnering for business development in Mindanao
and that growth and peace are mutually supportive. The
Embassy party toured a tuna processing plant owned by
Phillips, an American company, and an
agricultural/aquacultural complex owned by a provincial
governor’s family. To highlight our commitment to
infrastructure development, the team also inaugurated a
USAID-supported footbridge that improves the quality of life
in rural Mindanao and also allows town residents to bring
products to market. Media interviews and convention coverage
enabled the DCM to broadcast the business development message
broadly and to underscore that our military is committed to
playing a supportive role at the invitation of the Philippine
government. End Summary.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY: OPEN FOR BUSINESS
————————————–

¶2. (U) The Mindanao Business Conference (MBC) marked its
16th anniversary with a record number of attendees (497) at
its two-day annual meeting in General Santos City. The U.S.
supported the founding of MBC and has sent high-level
officials to every conference. This year the DCM led an
Embassy party to show continued support for greater economic
opportunities in the region. General Santos City is a port
city of 450,000 located at the center of three provinces
known as the SOCSKSARGEN region (South Cotabato, Sultan
Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos). The city’s strategic
location at the southern end of Mindanao, its active
international port, thriving fish export business, and
relatively stable civil order make it an important area for
leveraging business opportunities. SOCSKSARGEN boasts
dynamic politicians as well — notably an up-and-coming
governor and a successful mayor.

THE BUSINESS UNITY DANCE
————————

¶3. (U) At the conference, the DCM had the opportunity to
talk extensively with Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. and Philippine
Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI) President Samie
Lim. Both Acharon and Lim asserted that the region is on the
path to prosperity, but perceived safety threats have
hampered investment, tourism, and economic growth. In the
keynote address, the DCM assured the conference participants
that the U.S. would continue to partner with them in building
infrastructure and enhancing security for a growing and
sustainable economy, naming a number of resources and
industries with great potential. Regional television covered
the event including the speech, his comments to reporters
after the event, and — in a light moment — the now
requisite “Papaya Dance” performed with the mayor, local
dancers, and distinguished guests.

FISHING FOR A STRONG EXPORT BASE
——————————–

¶4. (C) The Embassy team toured the extensive grounds of
Alsons Aquaculture Corporation, run by the prominent
Alcantara-Dominguez families. The company is a leading
exporter to the U.S., Europe, and Japan of milkfish and other
fish. Along with Alsons’ officials, the Embassy party met
with Sarangani Governor Miguel “Migs” Dominguez. Alsons
executives explained that their investments include
operations in Davao, Iligan, and Zamboanga, and they are
exploring the development of a cassava processing facility in
predominantly Muslim areas as a source for ethanol. Governor
Dominguez stated that a peace agreement between Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government was a
challenge due to the diversity of the population, and a peace
agreement would have little effect without viable
alternatives to existing livelihoods. He questioned the
local impact of a peace agreement, stating that local
officials bear the real responsibility for maintaining peace
and order through enforcement of the law and by negotiation.

¶5. (U) The Embassy team visited the facilities of a second
major exporter, Phillips Seafood Philippines Corporation, a
subsidiary of Maryland-based Phillips Foods, Inc. (In
General Santos City, the company does business under the name
Eastern Visayas Seafood Corporation). The Phillips staff
showed their cold storage facilities where they package

MANILA 00003307 002 OF 002

yellow-fin tuna for international shipping. USAID’s Growth
with Equity in Mindanao program helped attract Phillips to
the region in 1992. U.S. Congressman Ruppersberger of
Maryland expressed interest in Phillips during his visit with
Codel Reyes in August 2007.

CONSTRUCTIVE U.S. ROLE IN DEVELOPMENT
————————————-

¶6. (U) The team also attended the inauguration of a
footbridge in Sarangani that enables residents in the rural
town of Libi to get to school and to transport products to
market, even when rains flood the river. The project is one
of many in the area that demonstrates how a USAID
contribution (75% in this case) and local partners can
tangibly improve the quality of life. The DCM told
inauguration attendees that the footbridge showed our
commitment to partnerships and infrastructure projects that
support economic opportunity and improved quality of life.
The Embassy team joined Vice Governor Steve Solon and
Malapatan Mayor Aida Singcoy in cutting the ribbon.

LOCAL MEDIA REACTION
——————–

¶7. (SBU) Coverage of the MBC noted that the DCM’s presence
showed U.S. commitment to expanding trade and business.
Following the MBC, during a brief media stand-up, the DCM was
asked about a reported incident in which U.S. military
servicemen in the company of Armed Forces of the Philippines
were seen with weapons while wearing civilian attire in
General Santos City. The DCM took the opportunity to
underscore that U.S. troops are here at the invitation of the
Government of the Philippines and that they act only in a
supportive role to the Philippine Armed Forces; the incident
was a misunderstanding with no disrespect intended.

¶8. (U) Comment: Mindanao business leaders generally
expressed confidence in the region’s status as a “food
basket,” the economy’s ability to diversify, and Mindanao’s
promise as a tourist destination. MBC organizers confronted
head-on the perception that security problems would limit
development by admitting that “our greatest challenge is the
presence of troublemakers in our midst,” as Mayor Acharon put
it, but also argued that such problems should not discourage
investment for the greater good. The visit to both the
Alcantara-Dominguez complex and the Phillips-owned plant
showed that the export market for food products is vibrant,
and profits from such businesses will likely be re-invested
into diversified enterprises in the future.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/
KENNEY

   

 

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