US steps up conquest of Philippine business – WikiLeaks
Published : Wednesday, September 21, 2011 00:00
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Written by : JAIME PILAPIL REPORTER
THE interest of the United States in the Philippines is not only confined to its fight against terrorists. The most glaring is the increasing role that American business plays in the commercial life of its former colony, according to several confidential and unclassified diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks on August 30.
The most recent demonstration of this role, according to cables sent to the US State Department, was the December 2010 move of former US Ambassador Kristie Kenney to convince Manila to import vegetables.
Kenney said that no less than then-Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap high lighted the strong US-Philippine collaboration during the previous year (2009), especially joint efforts to transition former combatants in Mindanao to peaceful agricultural projects, and a series of high-level visits between the two countries.
She added that the discussion of agricultural trade issues was mostly positive, as several high-level decisions served to retain or open markets for US exporters.
Yap, according to WikiLeaks, also expressed his interest in resolving the Quedancor/GE Money Bank issue, making the general comment during the meeting that there would be “no scandals on my watch” before completing his tenure.
If permitted, he will serve through the end of the Arroyo administration concurrent with his campaign for a national congressional seat, it said.
US meat ban
Kenney reported that she thanked Yap for his efforts to postpone the reworking of the minimum access volume (MAV) issue, which had been perceived as detrimental to US pork exporters—making the Philippines the only country in the world completely open to US beef products as of October 2009.
Yap lifted the ban on US meat and bone meal.
The ban had been in effect since 2000 because of bovine spongiform encephalopathy concerns.
Kenney also thanked Yap for his decision to import goats and sheep from the United States instead of traditional livestock source countries Australia and New Zealand, as part of the Philippine livestock upgrade program.
The former US ambassador expressed concern that the market for US vegetable imports was being squeezed by the Philippines’ Agricultural department’s August decision to remove supermarkets, hypermarkets and grocery stores from its list of permissible “high-end markets” for imported vegetables.
Yap expressed his general view that US vegetables should not be allowed into supermarkets and that they should not compete with local produce, most of which are sold in informal farmers’ markets targeting Filipinos from the lower economic strata.
He promised to review the matter, and he and Kenney agreed to continue dialogue on the issue.
Kenney said that Yap explained that the Agriculture department continued to work with others in the Arroyo administration to restructure defaulted Quedancor bonds held by GE Money Bank.
Noting that the issue was complicated with many legal ramifications, she added that Yap emphasized to her that the Philippine government’s economic team would not “run away” from the issue.
“He reiterated what we have heard from other Cabinet officials—there is a commitment to resolve the issue in order to avoid frightening away investors,” Kenney said, adding that the US Embassy would continue to stay in touch and engage on this issue until resolution.
Highlighting strong collaboration between the United States and the Philippines on agriculture issues, Kenney and Yap discussed the many high-level visits in 2009, including those to the Philippines by US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
On the Philippine side, the July visit by then-President Gloria Arroyo was highlighted by a call on President Barack Obama. During the same trip, Yap had a productive meeting with Vilsack, laying the groundwork for his visit to the Philippines in October.
Kenney and Yap shared views on the importance of their joint agriculture efforts in Mindanao, especially the mariculture work that had supported former combatants in their transition toward peaceful and sustainable livelihoods.
To be continued