Oct 272014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/11/08MANILA2536.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA2536
2008-11-10 11:47
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO7380
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2536/01 3151147
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 101147Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2377
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002536

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/11/2018
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM RP
SUBJECT: DCM, USAID DIRECTOR SURVEY IDP CAMP, URGE END OF FIGHTING

REF: A. MANILA 2504 (PRESIDENT ARROYO LAUDS OBAMA
VICTORY IN MEETING WITH AMBASSADOR)
¶B. MANILA 2488 (AMBASSADOR URGES RAPID RESOLUTION
TO MINDANAO MILITARY OPERATIONS)
¶C. MANILA 2365 (PEACE PROCESS BATTERED BUT NOT
BURIED)

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: As part of our efforts to call attention to
the plight of internally displaced peoples in Mindanao and
encourage the government and Muslim insurgents to end
fighting, the Deputy Chief of Mission and USAID Director
traveled to the remote epicenter of the government-rebel
conflict and site of the highest concentration of internally
displaced persons in Mindanao. They were welcomed by local
leaders and regional health officials, who expressed deep
appreciation for long-standing U.S. health and education
programs that are now focused on the needs of displaced
peoples, as well as new U.S. assistance. The Acting Director
for the World Food Programme was grateful to accompany them
to the location, otherwise off-limits due to security
concerns. In a subsequent meeting with the local Philippine
military division commander, DCM and USAID Director discussed
displaced peoples and encouraged an early end to the
continued sporadic fighting. Local media covered the visit
extensively, focusing on U.S. assistance to displaced peoples
as well as the need for fighting to end and people to get
back to their homes. We believe our carefully calibrated
campaign to influence government and rebel leaders is gaining
traction, without triggering a nationalist backlash in a
highly sensitive political environment. The Ambassador drew
on the visit in conversations with senior government
officials (ref B), as did the DCM in quiet outreach to rebel
leadership. END SUMMARY.

U.S. COMMITTED TO SUPPORT IDP RELIEF EFFORTS
———————————————

¶2. (SBU) The Deputy Chief of Mission, accompanied by USAID
Mission Director and UN World Food Programme Philippines
Acting Director visited a crowded internally displaced
persons (IDP) evacuation center October 30 in the remote
village of Datu Piang, Maguindanao province, to assess the
conditions at the camp, demonstrate U.S. support for IDP
relief efforts, and reinforce the importance of existing
U.S.-Mindanao partnerships in the face of the current
humanitarian disaster. With 41,000 evacuees, who fled
fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
and rogue units of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),
Datu Piang has the largest IDP population in Mindanao.
During a welcome meeting, Autonomous Region of Muslim
Mindanao (ARMM) Secretary of Health Tahir Sulaik commented
that, even in this isolated village, in the middle of
Liguasan marsh and near the site of recent AFP-MILF
skirmishes, U.S. assistance was having a positive impact on
the IDP situation, and he thanked the DCM for our
contributions. The Datu Piang health clinic, renovated as
part of the USNS MERCY humanitarian visit in June, was now
serving the needs of IDPs at all hours. The DCM affirmed
U.S. support for the people of Mindanao, evidenced by our
readiness to help the local and regional governments face
this daunting crisis. With U.S. assistance in Mindanao
already well-established, the DCM noted, we were well
positioned to provide immediate aid as the IDP crisis
unfolded, and were likewise poised to do more as the
situation evolved, although the U.S. continued to encourage
all parties to press for an end to the fighting.

ENCOURAGING THE MILITARY TO END THE FIGHTING
——————————————–

¶3. (C) In a meeting later in the day with AFP Sixth Infantry
Division Commander General Raymundo Ferrer, the DCM described
his visit to the crowded IDP centers and emphasized to Ferrer
that, for the sake of reducing the impact on civilian
populations, it was important that military operations end
soon. The DCM suggested that the AFP could proactively
transition to civil-military operations to assist local
populations and encourage return of IDPs. General Ferrer
agreed, said that such programs were ongoing, and asked if
they could expect further U.S. assistance. Human rights
groups, he lamented, criticized the AFP for excessive force
and blocking relief supplies, but Ferrer said that AFP troops
exercised restraint and that NGOs needed to coordinate more
closely with local and regional officials to schedule aid

MANILA 00002536 002 OF 003

deliveries. The DCM thanked General Ferrer for supporting
the Embassy’s travel to Datu Piang, an area that in recent
weeks had seen intense fighting. After the conclusion of the
formal meeting, the DCM privately encouraged Ferrer to
consider the negative consequences of the prolonged fighting
as well as the enormous benefits of putting an end to it.
Ferrer indicated his agreement, noting that the AFP had
already achieved its military objectives.

NGOS CONCERNED ABOUT ONGOING CONFLICT
————————————–

¶4. (SBU) At an earlier lunch hosted by the DCM with business,
humanitarian, and pro-peace NGOs, participants expressed
their hope for a lasting peace that would enable Mindanao to
achieve its full economic and social potential. The DCM
congratulated all present on their proactive responses to the
IDP crisis and, given the United States’ long-standing
relationships with most of these groups, encouraged them to
think of new ways to leverage our existing partnerships to
respond to and ultimately put an end to the present conflict.
Business leaders from three different chambers of commerce
representing Cotabato City and the Muslim community described
their efforts to transform Mindanao into a major halal food
production center for the Muslim world and to improve local
governance and infrastructure, while NGOs that supported the
government-MILF territorial agreement expressed their
disappointment with the Supreme Court’s October decision
declaring that agreement unconstitutional. They asked the
DCM to find ways for the U.S. to help end the fighting and
bring the parties back to the negotiating table. Noting that
the U.S. was already quietly engaged in that effort, the DCM
encouraged all present to work together and to build on
existing relationships and strengths to help bring us closer
to that goal.

U.S. AID BRINGS RELIEF TO CROWDED, UNSANITARY CAMPS
——————————————— ——

¶5. (SBU) The visit to the Datu Piang evacuation center
allowed the DCM and USAID Director to assess the conditions
at the camp and view the impact of USAID projects on the
health and welfare of IDPs. Demonstrating one aspect of the
U.S. response to poor sanitation, the DCM and USAID Director
broke ground on a latrine structure in the town square, a
project made possible by refocusing USAID health projects in
Mindanao toward IDP relief. They also administered dozens of
Vitamin A capsules to children at an adjacent makeshift
health facility, another USAID sustainable health initiative
which has distributed vitamins to 7,000 children and
vaccinated 6,800 against measles. Other long-term USAID
projects have supported local governments’ health
infrastructure and the development of potable water sources,
which together have helped local governments have a more
effective response to the current IDP influx. The
well-established USAID presence in Maguindanao enabled the
U.S. to act quickly and effectively with government partners
in the early days of the crisis, for which Secretary Sulaik
and Datu Piang officials were clearly appreciative.

¶6. (SBU) Local and regional officials cited numerous
challenges in dealing with IDPs, such as the increasing
number and mobility of IDPs, inadequate and congested
evacuation centers, depleted or inconsistent provision of
medical supplies, inadequate sanitation, and exposure to
illness. In Datu Piang, the leading causes of morbidity were
diarrhea, pneumonia, typhoid, and measles, with seven deaths
since August 21. Measles continued to be a problem at other
evacuation centers in Mindanao. Working closely with local
partners, U.S. projects will continue to take into account
these key health concerns and other challenges, directing
U.S. assistance to make the greatest impact possible.

¶7. (SBU) The UN World Food Programme (WFP) Philippines Acting
Director Alghassim Wurie accompanied the DCM and USAID
Director on the visit to Datu Piang to view conditions at the
camp, a site that WFP officials were previously unable to
view first-hand without special security measures due to
fighting in the area. WFP has delivered food to Mindanao
IDPs in two rotations since August, primarily rice but also
dates, oil, and high energy biscuits, totaling 3,100 metric
tons. Datu Piang has received 359 metric tons, or about 12
percent of all WFP food aid to Mindanao. Wurie explained
that WFP’s key concerns were the potential for a cycle of
displacement, outbreak of disease in camps, and the food
security of those who farmed and fished for a living. The
U.S. contribution in October of 1,480 tons of rice through

MANILA 00002536 003 OF 003

USAID/Food for Peace had not yet been delivered, Wurie noted.
However, given that WFP rice stocks were expected to run out
in December, WFP was reviewing the possibility of borrowing
against the U.S. contribution.

COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) The visit to Maguindanao province achieved three
primary goals: surveying the IDP evacuation center
conditions, assessing the impact of U.S. relief assistance,
and continuing our strategy to encourage the AFP and the
rebels to end the fighting and help people return to their
homes. We were also able to confirm that local leaders seek
further U.S. assistance, which insulates us from Manila
political figures who questioned whether a sudden commitment
of EU assistance had been properly requested. The visit to
the remote, conflict-affected town of Datu Piang demonstrated
for local officials and the press the unbending U.S. support
for Mindanao and its people. As a follow-up to the visit,
the DCM spoke by telephone with MILF Vice Chairman Ghazali
Jafaar, seeking to focus him on the plight of IDPs and the
need for MILF leaders to help find ways to stop the fighting.
The MILF, Jafaar noted, was considering an offer of
“suspension of military activities.” While a firm commitment
to stop fighting has yet to take shape on either side, it is
clear that our sustained dialogue with both sides has led
them to search more proactively for an expedient political
context and vocabulary with which to close the chapter on the
latest fighting.

KENNEY

   

 

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