Oct 212014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2006-02-21 05:40
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #0740/01 0520540
R 210540Z FEB 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

¶B. MANILA 530
¶C. MANILA 472
¶D. MANILA 5637
¶E. 04 MANILA 5943

¶1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified. Please
handle accordingly.

¶2. (SBU) Summary: Despite official optimism over a final
GRP-MILF peace agreement by the end of 2006, disputes over
land and natural resources, clan conflicts (locally called
“rido”), and tensions between Muslims and Christians will
remain important undercurrents and challenges to peace and
development in Mindanao. Diffusing such tensions will be a
major challenge for the GRP-MILF peace process during the
years ahead, requiring careful governance and significant
amounts of foreign assistance. End Summary.

Prospects for peace, but…

¶3. (SBU) The tenth round of GRP-MILF talks recently
concluded on an upbeat note in Malaysia, with GRP and MILF
officials alike expressing optimism that they could reach a
peace agreement by the end of 2006 (reftels). Knowledgeable
observers nonetheless continue to point to unhappiness
throughout the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)
over perceived lack of a full and fair implementation of the
1996 accord between the GRP and the Moro National Liberation
Front as a caution for undue optimism with the GRP-MILF

…competition over natural resources

¶4. (SBU) Based on incomplete data and unconfirmed reports,
the Philippines may have untapped mineral wealth worth
between US$ 840 billion and US$ 1 trillion. (The U.S.
Geological Survey hopes soon to conduct a more comprehensive
survey of minerals, with funding from the GRP.) A special
advisor on the GRP-MILF Peace Process in the Office of the
President recently described Mindanao in particular as “a
treasure trove” of mineral resources, including gold, copper,
nickel, manganese, chromite, silver, lead, zinc, and iron
ore. According to data from the GRP Mines and Geosciences
Bureau, up to 70 per cent of the Philippines’ mineral
resources may be in Mindanao. Interest has grown
significantly since a December 2004 decision by the Supreme
Court upheld the constitutionality of the Mining Act.
Companies that are up to 100 per cent foreign owned may now
pursue investments in large-scale exploration and development
of minerals, oil, and gas. As of early 2006, there were 23
mining projects nationwide. Multinational firms are already
eyeing areas in Mindanao for possible projects.

¶5. (SBU) The Department of Energy and Natural Resources
(DENR) has already identified natural gas and oil deposits in
three areas of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago: the
Cotabato Basin; the Davao-Agusan Basin; and, an area
straddling Tawi-Tawi and Sulu. The Cotabato Basin, notably,
includes the 288,000 hectare Liguasan Marsh, straddling the
provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudurat.
This swamp/marsh — which is an officially declared bird
sanctuary and game refuge — remains an important MILF
stronghold, home to an estimated 280,000 Muslims, and an area
where members of the terrorist Jemaah Islamiya (JI) have
historically conducted training and sought refuge.

¶6. (SBU) The Philippines National Oil Company (PNOC) began
exploring for oil and natural gas in the Liguasan Marsh area
in 1994 under Geophysical Survey and Exploration Contract
(GSEC) 73, which covered all of Maguindanao, North Cotabato,
South Cotabato, Sultan Kudurat, Sarangani, Davao, and
Bukidnon provinces of Mindanao. Malaysia’s national oil
company, Petronas, partnered with the PNOC. By the late
1990’s, they had located natural gas and/or oil in five
sites, including Datu Piang (Dulawan) and Sultan Sa Barongis
in Maguindanao and Lambayong in Sultan Kudurat. According to
the PNOC, the estimated natural gas deposits in Sultan Sa
Barongis alone would be enough to fuel a 60MW combined cycle
power plant for 20 years. The PNOC had hoped to use this gas
to support the power requirements of Mindanao as well as for
industrial applications. However, the PNOC and Petronas

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suspended operations in the Liguasan Marsh area due to
threats from the MILF and extortion by local mayors and
political warlords.

¶7. (SBU) Additionally, competing land ownership claims will
make exploitation of these resources difficult. The clan of
former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor
Zacaria Candao has already staked a claim to 40 percent of
this land, while other clans — including the Mangudadatus
and Pendatuns — have claimed at least 50 per cent ownership.
MILF Vice-Chairman of Political Affairs Ghazali Jafaar has
referred to the Liguasan Marsh as a “legacy from our
forefathers” and stated that the “Bangsamoro” people
(Filipino Muslims) would not part with their lands in the
marsh. The MILF has created the Bangsamoro Development
Agency (BDA) to lead, manage, and determine developmental
efforts, including in the Liguasan Marsh. Separately, the
Maguindanao tribe — the predominant indigenous and largely
Muslim ethnic group living in and around the Liguasan Marsh
— considers the marsh as part of its own ancestral domain.
The Maguindanao-based clan of the deceased Salipada K.
Pendatun — the first Muslim to serve as a general in the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) — has also claimed
ownership over the entire Liguasan Marsh by virtue of an
original land title. Though Pendatun’s daughter/legal heir,
Bai Monera Pendatun, has said that the Pendatun clan is open
to sharing the marsh with others, she has opposed any
amendment to the law that would allow titling of lands within
the marsh. The head of the Alamada clan, Rebecca Dilagalan
Alamada Buan, has separately claimed 14,000 hectares in North
Cotabato Province, near the borders of Maguindanao and Lanao
Del Sur. Meanwhile, the Ampatuan clan, led by Maguindanao
Governor Andal Ampatuan and ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan,
politically dominate the region, also including most of the
mayors of the 11 municipalities of Maguindanao, eight
municipalities of North Cotabato, and one municipality of
Sultan Kudurat that encompass the Liguasan Marsh.

¶8. (SBU) The 1987 Constitution specifies that “all lands of
the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and
other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy,
fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and
other natural resources are owned by the State” and that all
“exploitation, development, and utilization of natural
resources shall be under the full control and supervision of
the State.” According to the Expanded Organic Act for the
ARMM (RA 9054), the GRP — rather than the Bangsamoro people
— explicitly controls all of the natural resources in the
Liguasan Marsh. However, the Indigenous Peoples Right Act
(IPRA) provided that indigenous peoples within and along the
Liguasan Marsh could claim the land and natural resources in
the marsh as part of their ancestral domain.

——————————————— ———–
Infighting among Muslim clans (1): Requiem for a sultan
——————————————— ———–

¶9. (SBU) On January 11, unidentified gunmen shot Amir Bin
Muhammad Baraguir — who claimed to be a descendant of Sultan
Shariff Muhammad Kabungsuan and the three hereditary ruling
families of Maguindanao, Buayan, and Kabuntalan — outside
his home in Sultan Kudurat. Baraguir’s murder came less than
a month after his December 12, 2005, enthronement as the 25th
Sultan of Maguindanao during traditional ceremonies in
Cotabato City. Installing Baraguir as the new Sultan were
his elder-benefactors from central Mindanao, the Zamboanga
Peninsula, and South Cotabato-Sultan
Kudurat-Sarangani-General Santos City (Socksargen).

¶10. (SBU) Baraguir was a moderate Muslim who had opposed the
spread of Wahabbi influences in Mindanao. During his weekly
community-based radio program, Baraguir was critical of
foreign trained religious leaders who sought to impose
practices akin to those of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He
also wrote columns for a daily newspaper in which he
criticized extremist Muslim groups. As the newly enthroned
Sultan of Maguindanao, Baraguir vowed to pursue the right of
self-government for the Muslims of Mindanao under the United
Nations Charter and international agreements. He also
stressed the importance of the Sultanate as a governing

¶11. (SBU) The murder of Baraguir raised fears of a rido
involving hereditary royal families in Mindanao. The Sultan
of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad
Pulalun, appealed to the Baraguir clan to refrain from

MANILA 00000740 003 OF 004

violence, and requested assistance from Malacanang in
diffusing tensions surrounding Baraguir’s brutal slaying.
ARMM Police Superintendent Akmad Mamalinta formed “Task Force
Sultan” to investigate the killing, while MILF officials —
denying any involvement in the slaying — have speculated
that the murder could be part of a “family feud” within the
area of Sultan Kudurat controlled by the Baraguir and Mastura

——————————————— ——–
Infighting among Muslim clans (2): Anatomy of a rido
——————————————— ——–

¶12. (SBU) On January 25, an armed conflict between two MILF
groups erupted in Barangay Kaya Kaya in Datu Abdullah Sangki
Municipality of Maguindanao, when MILF Brigade Commander Said
Pakiladatu attempted to survey a tract of land that he
claimed to own. Blocking the way were members of the MILF
105th Base Command under Brigade Commander Itom Ampatuan, the
nephew of Maguindanao Governor Ampatuan. When AFP troops and
para-military groups loyal to Governor Ampatuan entered the
area, skirmishes spread to Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak,
Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, and Datu Piang, displacing thousands of
civilians in the process (ref C).

¶13. (SBU) Prior to the outbreak of these armed clashes,
tensions had already been escalating in Datu Unsay,
Maguindanao, over the MILF’s opposition to a local government
road rehabilitation project that apparently had not been
coordinated with the MILF leadership. On January 21, an
estimated 100 MILF members attempted to stop construction of
this road, claiming that it would traverse a MILF camp in the
area. To protest the MILF’s disruption of this road project,
eight mayors (all relatives of Governor Ampatuan) sent a
petition to the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team
(IMT) and to Malacanang. In response, the IMT set up a
temporary office in Guindulungan, supported by the Office of
the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the
NGO “Ceasefire Watch.” During a meeting between Governor
Ampatuan and OAPAP’s Jesus Gestuveo “Jess” Dureza, Ampatuan
agreed to a ceasefire to allow the IMT and CCCH to stabilize
the situation on the ground.

¶14. (SBU) Underlying these latest armed clashes was a
long-standing rido between the Ampatuan and Candao clans.
During the 2001 Maguindanao gubernatorial race between
Ampatuan and former ARMM governor Zacaria Candao, tensions
between the two clans escalated into violence and bloodshed.
After losing the election to Ampatuan, Candao filed an
unsuccessful protest with the Commission on Elections
accusing Ampatuan of electoral fraud. On December 24, 2002,
Mayor Saudi Ampatuan (Ampatuan’s eldest son) of Datu Piang
Municipality was killed in a bomb explosion. Among the
suspects in Saudi’s murder were MILF members and “Zacaria
Candao’s man” — Said Pakiladatu– whom Saudi Ampatuan had
defeated in the 2001 mayoral race. Pakiladatu’s defeat also
triggered yet another rido, between the Pakiladatu clan and
the Tayuan clan, over the Tayuans’ support of the Ampatuans
during the elections.

¶15. (SBU) Less than five weeks after the murder of Saudi
Ampatuan, Zacaria Candao’s brother, Abdulkadir “Peiping”
Candao, was assassinated in Cotabato City by unidentified
assailants. Over the past three years, there have
sporadically been other outbreaks of the Ampatuan/Candao
rido, which local observers assess as one of the most serious
threats to lasting peace in the Maguindanao region.

Muslim-Christian tensions

¶16. (SBU) Muslim-Christian land disputes overshadow
religious tensions as potential spoilers of a GRP-MILF peace
agreement. Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat — a wealthy
Christian, a former member of Congress, and son of a
long-standing mayor — remains one of the most vocal
opponents of any peace agreement that would expand the
existing territorial boundaries of the ARMM and infringe upon
the land and other rights of resident Christians. Subsequent
to the mid-October 2005 press leak regarding the creation of
a “Bangsamoro” juridical entity that would include the
Zamboanga peninsula (ref D), Lobregat said at a press
conference that “this is a sellout and we will not allow
Mindanao to be dismembered, and we must act swiftly before it
is too late.”

MANILA 00000740 004 OF 004

¶17. (SBU) In a letter dated February 13, 2006, to
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Jesus “Jess”
Dureza, Mayor Lobregat stated that “our firm position remains
and will always be the same, i.e., that the City of Zamboanga
should be excluded from the coverage of the proposed
“Bangsamoro Homeland” and that the Bangsamoro juridical
entity should not have any jurisdiction over the city,
including its barangays.” In specific reference to ancestral
domain, Lobregat also noted in his letter to Dureza that “our
position remains the same, i.e, we are not aware of any
barangay or any part of Zamboanga City which may be
considered as “ancestral domain” as the term is referred to
in documents covering the negotiations by and between the GRP
and MILF panels.” (Note: Zamboanga City is a Local
Government Unit (LGU) composed of 98 barangays. End Note.)

¶18. (SBU) Archbishop of Zamboanga Carmelo Morelos is
concerned about rising Muslim-Christian tensions over the
potential creation of a Bangsamoro juridical entity that
would include the Zamboanga peninsula. In an effort to
alleviate concerns, the GRP Peace Panel is planning to hold
an open forum on the GRP-MILF peace process on February 22 at
Western Mindanao University in Zamboanga.

¶19. (SBU) There has been some violence involving the
Christian and Muslim communities. At least six people have
been killed — including a suspected MILF member and his wife
— in clashes between Muslims and Christians in Tupi, South
Cotabato beginning on January 29. To avoid being caught in a
crossfire, hundreds of residents have fled from their homes.
The AFP and PNP have imposed a curfew to quell the violence.
While the exact cause of this armed conflict remains unclear,
GRP officials commented that the fighting is over land, not
religious differences.


¶20. (SBU) As difficult as negotiation of the GRP-MILF peace
accord has been, its eventual implementation will be even
trickier, as competing interests jockey for power, resources,
and influence. The IMT has proven its effectiveness in
diffusing minor conflicts, but achieving peace in Muslim
Mindanao will require improved law enforcement and justice
systems, anti-corruption measures, good governance,
education/training programs, fair distribution of resources,
and increased economic opportunities. Much work on the
ground — and significant quantities of well designed foreign
assistance — will be essential to the lasting success or
failure of the ever more likely GRP-MILF accord.

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http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

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