Oct 212014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/09/07MANILA3050.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA3050
2007-09-10 10:04
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO2508
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DE RUEHML #3050/01 2531004
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 101004Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8178
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003050

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2017
TAGS: PREL PINS KISL RP
SUBJECT: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM ON PEACE TALKS RESUMPTION

REF: A) MANILA 2852 B) MANILA 2838

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

¶1. (C) Summary: In a September 4 meeting with the DCM, the
Philippines’ chief negotiator with Muslim insurgents
expressed cautious optimism that stalled peace talks could
begin to make progress on key issues like territory and
governance for a Muslim political entity in Mindanao. Peace
Panel chairman Rodolfo Garcia suggested that the cabinet
might soon agree on a territorial offer for the Muslim
entity, and gave a general outline of key next steps in the
process. Garcia observed that the recent informal executive
session on August 27 with the insurgent Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur was productive,
citing an agreement to extend the mandate of the
Malaysian-led international monitoring team and discussions
on territory. The Malaysian government has pressed both
sides to overcome the current stalemate in the talks held
under its auspices, and the Malaysian and Philippine
presidents committed to reviving the talks during an APEC
meeting September 8. End summary.

¶2. (C) Garcia described the August 27 executive session of
the government-insurgent talks in Kuala Lumpur as frank and
informal. The key public accomplishment was extending for
one year the mandate of the international monitoring team
that oversees the current peace arrangement. The sides also
agreed to expand the territory covered by the monitors, to
include Basilan, Jolo, Palawan and Tawi-tawi, but Garcia
added that the international monitoring team would not be
stationing members on these islands since the MILF had only a
“smattering” of forces there at best. In the event of an
unforeseen crisis, as had occurred with the ambush and
beheadings on Basilan on July 10, the international monitors
would be able to investigate.

¶3. (C) Garcia said the real focus of the talks was a
continued discussion of what territory to include in any
future Muslim political entity in Mindanao, an issue that had
been bogged down for a year. The two sides continued to
engage in “probing” on the territory issue, and Garcia voiced
concern that the issue could deadlock again if he attempted
to open full-scale exploratory talks on the subject. The
less formal executive sessions seemed more likely to “avoid
explosions.” On the government side, Garcia noted that a
national security council meeting September 3 on the
territory issue had yielded a productive discussion. The
cabinet meeting had provided enough guidance to the
negotiators “to get the talks going,” but this was a living
issue and there might be “some drags on the process.”

¶4. (C) Negotiators were taking a step-by-step approach,
Garcia said, first trying to figure out what territory would
be included in the political entity, before taking up
governance issues. “Before you build a house, you need to
see the lot you are building on,” Garcia observed. But one
issue was clear: while the principle of self determination
would apply in setting up the government structure,
independence was not an option, Garcia stated. The goal was
to allow local people to determine their future within a
sovereign state. The goal was not a separate state.

¶5. (C) Once the area and governing structure were agreed, it
would be vital to work with key local and national leaders in
the Congress and Senate, Garcia said, not least because it
would be necessary to amend the act that set up the
autonomous region. A plebiscite would then be needed
probably soon after a final peace accord was signed. While
the historical record on such plebiscites was not encouraging
(several Mindanao provinces voted against inclusion in the
existing autonomous region), Garcia observed that the MILF
had a better chance, as the territories in question were more
contiguous.

¶6. (C) Malaysian intermediaries were impatient over the
current impasse and got “ruffled” when the process did not go
in expected directions, Garcia said. Still, they put on a
good face and there had been no repeat of September 2006,
when the Malaysians had lost some of their composure and made
threats over the breakdown in the talks. Garcia himself
observed that while contacts were good between himself and
the Malaysians, and between the MILF and Kuala Lumpur, he
wished the negotiating arrangement allowed him direct
contacts with the Muslim insurgents. Informal links existed,
but he noted that he could not call his MILF counterpart
directly on the phone.

¶7. (C) Garcia stated firmly that he believed the MILF were
not responsible for the July 10 beheadings of 10 Philippine

MANILA 00003050 002 OF 002

Marines on Basilan, though an MILF command had initiated the
ambush. In Garcia’s experience, the MILF forces did not lie
about their activities, but took responsibility for acts they
committed.

¶8. (C) Meanwhile, President Arroyo and Malaysian President
Badawi agreed to push for resumption of the peace talks
during a September 8 meeting at APEC. Arroyo noted to the
press that Badawi had pressed her to return to the talks, and
she voiced optimism that the Malaysian-sponsored discussions
would soon reconvene.

¶9. (C) Comment: Garcia gave a clear — but very cautious —
signal that the government had made progress in its difficult
internal deliberations over what territory to include in a
future Muslim political entity on Mindanao. He was more
equivocal on the question of political powersharing for the
Muslim entity, explaining that “self determination” had not
been fleshed out and could mean many things. The combination
of Malaysian pressure and Arroyo’s desire for a resolution to
the insurgency before her tenure ends in 2010 could lead to
further progress. But the negotiator would not be drawn out
on timelines for progress, only on the issues of territory
and governance still outstanding.
KENNEY

   

 

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