Saturday, February 6, 2010


(Excerpts from an article in Pinoy Herald Feb. 2010 edition)

The government is set to tap anew the influential Washington DC lobby group Covington & Burling LLP to help win a reported $439 million Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and convince the US Congress to lift human rights conditions for military aid, among others.

Ambassador Willy Gaa posted a notice in the Philippine Embassy website to renew the services of former US Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, a senior partner at Covington & Burling LLP and chair of its international practice.

Eizenstat said they played “an important role” in pushing for the $198 million lump sum payment to Filipino World War II veterans, as well as the resolution of a longstanding tax dispute between the Philippines and New York City.

Eizenstat was chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter, US Ambassador to the European Union and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under the Clinton administration.

Covington & Burling, established in 1919, is one of the oldest and most influential law firms in Washington DC.

The lobbying contract will run for six months for an undisclosed amount. The earlier contract in January 2008, which also lasted six months, cost $500,000.

“There is nothing unusual. This is just how it’s done here,” explained Consul General Domingo Nolasco.

The website estimated total spending to lobby Congress and federal agencies reached $2.5 billion in 2009 – actually a decline from a peak of $3.3 billion in 2008.

Covington isn’t the only group being used by Philippine interests. Sorini, Samet & Associates is working on Capitol Hill for duty-free exports of Philippine apparel using US-made textiles.

Also, the Philippines reportedly tapped US apparel executive Fiona Ki to identify fabric needs in the Philippines for US textile mills.

If that bill pushes through, it could be worth at least $1 billion for Philippine garment manufacturers.

Eizenstat’s lobby efforts are expected to center on addressing two key sore points – corruption and human rights.

The country is on the verge of winning Compact status with the MCC, but the Arroyo administration flunked the critical corruption test for two years in a row.

Approval is expected in Fiscal 2010, which actually started September 2009, but the Philippines failed to make the grade.

Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) president Reynaldo David said in early January, the bank was ready to support “negotiating for the MCC terms and conditions which will be cut in preparation for the execution of the Compact agreement in Washington DC in April”.

But obviously, the key is overcoming MCC’s corruption concerns, and Eizenstat is reportedly confident he can help.

He’ll also be busy convincing US lawmakers to lift human rights conditions to the $30million Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to the Philippines.

The US Congress placed a $2 million caveat to the military aid. The State Department must certify the government is not using that aid to suppress legitimate dissent.

The Obama administration only last week submitted a foreign aid budget that featured a hefty increase in development assistance but cut in half military aid to the Philippines.

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