Oct 212014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/11/08MANILA2615.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA2615
2008-11-26 09:12
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO0021
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2615/01 3310912
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 260912Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2536
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002615

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2018
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM RP
SUBJECT: ANNOUNCING U.S. ASSISTANCE FOR EVACUEES, AMBASSADOR PUSHES FOR END TO FIGHTING

REF: A. MANILA 2592 (AMBASSADOR CONTINUES PEACE AND
SECURITY DIALOGUE)
¶B. MANILA 2536 (DCM AND USAID DIRECTOR SURVEY IDP
CAMP)
¶C. MANILA 2338 (HIGH COURT RULES AGAINST MILF PEACE
DEAL)
¶D. MANILA 1844 (MILF CONTINUES TO SUPPORT PEACE
PROCESS)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On her November 21 visit to an internally
displaced persons (IDP) camp in central Mindanao, the
Ambassador called for an end to fighting between government
forces and separatist Muslim rebels and expressed continued
U.S. support for the people of Mindanao, especially those
fleeing areas wracked by the ongoing conflict. Accompanied
by the USAID Mission Director and the UN World Food Programme
(WFP) Country Director, the Ambassador announced to
Philippine officials and journalists the U.S. assistance
package to address the IDP situation, including a donation of
more than a thousand tons of rice to the WFP. Indicating a
potential new direction for the peace process, Cotabato
City’s Mayor Sema later that day told Ambassador that he and
the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader believed the
government’s 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National
Liberation Front (MNLF) contained elements that resembled
parts of this summer’s aborted territorial agreement. These
specific elements could form the basis of renewed peace
talks, and Sema said he might raise the issue on the margins
of the next MNLF tri-partite meeting.

¶2. (C) SUMMARY CONTINUED: As Sema’s guest of honor at a
large, boisterous City Hall luncheon, the Ambassador
connected with government officials and religious, business,
and civil society leaders, some on opposing ends of the
political spectrum, reinforcing U.S. support for peace and
development in the region and reestablishing ties with an
audience that welcomed U.S. engagement in Mindanao.
Separately, the local Philippine military division commander
predicted that fighting could subside in December, while the
Ambassador emphasized the importance of civil-military
operations to build better relationships with local
communities as a way to transition away from fighting. END
SUMMARY.

AMBASSADOR ANNOUNCES U.S. AID, URGES END TO FIGHTING
——————————————— ——-

¶3. (C) Welcomed by local, provincial, and regional officials,
the Ambassador visited internally displaced persons (IDPs) at
an evacuation center in the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat,
Shariff Kabunsuan province, on November 21 to demonstrate
U.S. support for the victims of the ongoing conflict in
central Mindanao between government forces and separatist
Muslim rebels and to highlight the U.S. call for an end to
fighting. Regional health officials explained to Ambassador,
who was accompanied by USAID Mission Director and UN World
Food Programme (WFP) Country Director, that conditions in
Datu Odin Sinsuat were not as dire as those in Datu Piang,
which the DCM had visited one month earlier (ref B), but
noted that the government was still challenged by a general
shortage of medical supplies and inadequate sanitation
facilities. The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
Secretary of Health and other officials welcomed the
Ambassador’s announcement of U.S. assistance in the form of
1,500 tons of rice to the WFP and the targeting of water and
sanitation infrastructure projects to alleviate conditions at
crowded IDP camps. The benefits of earlier U.S. assistance
to Mindanao’s health infrastructure were already visible;
evacuees were receiving Vitamin A capsules and immunizations
from the regional Department of Health with technical support
from USAID programs to prevent the spread of disease, which,
according to some reports, was becoming more of a concern at
other IDP evacuation centers.

MAYOR SEES NEW AVENUE FOR PEACE TALKS
————————————-

¶4. (C) In a meeting at Cotabato City Hall, Mayor Muslimin
Sema, without prompting, briefed Ambassador on his efforts to
restart peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) and the Philippine government. The government’s 1996
peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front
(MNLF) and the 1989 law that created the Autonomous Region of

MANILA 00002615 002 OF 003

Muslim Mindanao, he said, contained some elements of the
territorial agreement aborted in October — and could
potentially become the basis for renewed peace negotiations.
The implication was that the original concepts of the
territorial agreement would not necessarily be abandoned in
the next phase of talks and could give hope to the MILF,
still reeling from the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the
territorial agreement unconstitutional (ref C). The
Philippine government would likewise have a good basis to get
back to the negotiating table. The MILF’s aging leaders,
Sema noted, ultimately wanted a peace deal and were not
enthusiastic about the rogue MILF commanders that launched
strikes in August. Sema said he and MILF Chairman Murad
wanted the Ambassador to know that they might raise this
issue on the margins of the next MNLF tripartite talks.

¶5. (C) The Ambassador welcomed Sema’s intention to support a
return to peace talks, noting that neither the MILF nor the
Philippines came out winners in the unexpected Supreme Court
decision. The Ambassador asked Sema to convey to Murad her
belief that the high court decision did not categorically end
the peace talks. The best course was still to continue
negotiations, the Ambassador explained, because fighting
benefited no one and there was still much more to discuss.
The U.S. and other donors would support a return to peace
talks with development assistance, but the U.S. could not do
this while the parties were at war.

BRINGING DIVERSE GROUPS TOGETHER
——————————–

¶6. (C) At a boisterous luncheon hosted by Mayor Sema in honor
of the Ambassador, Sema went to great lengths to invite over
300 key leaders from Cotabato City and surrounding
municipalities, many of whom had ties to the U.S. through
U.S. government grants or Public Affairs programs, and
considered themselves friends of the United States. The
guest list featured groups on opposite sides of the political
spectrum, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, MILF
members, MNLF members, catholic and Muslim religious leaders,
business and civil society leaders, and numerous government
officials — evidence of the high regard that many parties in
the greater Cotabato community have for the Mayor. Visibly
enjoying the attention, Sema seemed to view himself as a
peacemaker, uniting a diverse crowd from a troubled region
within the context of the U.S. Ambassador’s highly
anticipated visit. In his address to those gathered, he
expressed his aspirations for Cotabato City, the need for
peace in the region, and his sincere appreciation and
gratitude for the “care and concern” that the U.S. had
exhibited toward his city, which, he beamed, had stimulated
investment in the area.

MILITARY WEIGHS ITS OPTIONS
—————————

¶7. (C) In a meeting at Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
Sixth Infantry Division headquarters, General Raymundo Ferrer
reiterated concerns that he had relayed to U.S. officials on
other occasions. He expressed hope that fighting would end
by Christmas and that the MILF would contain the two rogue
commanders that were still on the run. He told Ambassador
that some IDPs were instructed to return home, but they
hesitated to leave IDP camps where safety and access to food
were ensured. Still, he acknowledged that the longer
operations continued, the more the AFP risked tarnishing its
image as defender of the people. At any rate, even with the
upper hand on the battlefield, morale and troop welfare were
becoming a concern, which could further advance movement
toward a December ceasefire. Commending the AFP on their
work and recounting an earlier conversation with AFP Chief of
Staff General Yano (ref A), the Ambassador urged Ferrer to
consider more civil-military operations as a means to
solidify the AFP’s relationships with communities caught in
the conflict. The U.S. was willing to contribute to
civil-military operations, the Ambassador assured, but could
not get ahead of the Philippine government on the issue, and
could not pursue these projects while fighting continued.

CEREMONIES AT TWO USAID FACILITIES
———————————-

¶8. (C) During the course of the visit, the Ambassador
participated in an opening ceremony for a USAID-funded
trading center structure in Barangay Awang where farmers can
conveniently sell their goods, and in a blessing ceremony for

MANILA 00002615 003 OF 003

the formal opening of the Cotabato City Mega Square, which
has become home for many stores and service providers. The
Ambassador noted in remarks at both events that these
facilities, constructed in close cooperation with local
officials, would bring economic growth to the area in a
demonstration of the continuing commitment of the Philippine
and U.S. governments to the peace process, as well as to the
future of Mindanao and its people.

COMMENT
——-

¶9. (C) Mayor Sema’s frank and enthusiastic discussion with
the Ambassador could augur well for a new direction on the
path to restart peace talks. The exact connection between
the 1989 Organic Law, the 1996 peace agreement, and the
territorial agreement is not yet clear, and it is also
unclear how Sema came to the conclusion — whether on his
own, or in consultation with outside legal experts — that
certain common “elements” are shared among these different
agreements. Regardless, Sema has already discussed this
potential path with the MILF and, for the time being, it
appears that the MILF has accepted the notion as something
worth exploring. While Sema has maintained regular contact
with the MILF’s Chairman Murad (ref D), the potential for an
MNLF role in the MILF peace process could lead the two sides
to a more constructive working relationship far in advance of
any final negotiated peace settlement.

KENNEY

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.